Advertise here with Carbon Ads

This site is made possible by member support. ❀️

Big thanks to Arcustech for hosting the site and offering amazing tech support.

When you buy through links on kottke.org, I may earn an affiliate commission. Thanks for supporting the site!

kottke.org. home of fine hypertext products since 1998.

πŸ”  πŸ’€  πŸ“Έ  😭  πŸ•³οΈ  🀠  🎬  πŸ₯”

kottke.org posts about politics

Who Goes Nazi?

In 1934, Dorothy Thompson became the first American journalist to be expelled from Nazi Germany for writing critically & unfavorably about the regime and its leader, Adolf Hitler:

He is formless, almost faceless, a man whose countenance is a caricature, a man whose framework seems cartilaginous, without bones. He is inconsequent and voluble, ill-poised, insecure. He is the very prototype of the Little Man.

Back in America as one of the most famous journalists and women of her time, she spent the rest of the 30s and early 40s trying to warn the nation of fascism both here and abroad. In 1941, she wrote a piece for Harper’s Magazine called Who Goes Nazi?, in which she muses about which guests at a party would become Nazis.

The saturnine man over there talking with a lovely French emigree is already a Nazi. Mr. C is a brilliant and embittered intellectual. He was a poor white-trash Southern boy, a scholarship student at two universities where he took all the scholastic honors but was never invited to join a fraternity. His brilliant gifts won for him successively government positions, partnership in a prominent law firm, and eventually a highly paid job as a Wall Street adviser. He has always moved among important people and always been socially on the periphery. His colleagues have admired his brains and exploited them, but they have seldom invited him β€” or his wife β€” to dinner.

He is a snob, loathing his own snobbery. He despises the men about him β€” he despises, for instance, Mr. B β€” because he knows that what he has had to achieve by relentless work men like B have won by knowing the right people. But his contempt is inextricably mingled with envy. Even more than he hates the class into which he has insecurely risen, does he hate the people from whom he came. He hates his mother and his father for being his parents. He loathes everything that reminds him of his origins and his humiliations. He is bitterly anti-Semitic because the social insecurity of the Jews reminds him of his own psychological insecurity.

Pity he has utterly erased from his nature, and joy he has never known. He has an ambition, bitter and burning. It is to rise to such an eminence that no one can ever again humiliate him. Not to rule but to be the secret ruler, pulling the strings of puppets created by his brains. Already some of them are talking his language β€” though they have never met him.

There he sits: he talks awkwardly rather than glibly; he is courteous. He commands a distant and cold respect. But he is a very dangerous man. Were he primitive and brutal he would be a criminal β€” a murderer. But he is subtle and cruel. He would rise high in a Nazi regime. It would need men just like him β€” intellectual and ruthless. But Mr. C is not a born Nazi. He is the product of a democracy hypocritically preaching social equality and practicing a carelessly brutal snobbery. He is a sensitive, gifted man who has been humiliated into nihilism. He would laugh to see heads roll.


Inside the Trump Plan for 2025

In a well-researched piece for the New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer writes about the “network of well-funded far-right activists” who are making plans for Trump’s second term. It’s more than just Project 2025 and the Heritage Foundation β€” and as his first term showed, it’s not necessarily about what Trump himself wants, it’s that the chaos that surrounds him creates opportunities for these ultra-conservatives to wreck havoc on the freedoms enjoyed by Americans.

I can’t decide which of the plans in these three excerpts is most terrifying:

Stephen Miller, at America First Legal, has been devising plans to enact a nationwide crackdown on immigration, just as he had hoped to carry out on a vast scale in the first Trump term. The impediment then was operational: a lack of personnel to make arrests, a shortage of space to detain people, resistance from Democratic officials at the state and local levels. Miller has since vowed to increase deportations by a factor of ten, to a million people a year, according to the Times. The President would have to deputize federal troops to carry out the job, because there wouldn’t be enough agents at the Department of Homeland Security to do it. The government would need to build large internment camps, and, in the event that Congress refused to appropriate the money required, the President would have to divert funds from the military.

The person close to C.P.I. considered himself a denizen of the far-right wing of the Republican Party, yet some of the ideas under discussion among those working on Project 2025 genuinely scared him. One of them was what he described to me as “all this talk, still, about bombing Mexico and taking military action in Mexico.” This had apparently come up before, during the first Trump term, in conversations about curbing the country’s drug cartels. The President had been mollified but never dissuaded. According to Mike Pompeo, his former Secretary of State, Trump once asked, “How would we do if we went to war with Mexico?”

Those close to Trump are also anticipating large protests if he wins in November. His first term was essentially bookended by demonstrations, from the Women’s March and rallies against the Muslim ban to the mass movement that took to the streets after the murder of George Floyd, in the summer of 2020. Jeffrey Clark and others have been working on plans to impose a version of the Insurrection Act that would allow the President to dispatch troops to serve as a national police force. Invoking the act would allow Trump to arrest protesters, the person told me. Trump came close to doing this in the final months of his term, in response to the Black Lives Matter protests, but he was blocked by his Secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

You don’t even need to be a scholar of authoritarianism to recognize where this is going β€” it’s not like they are being secretive about it.

a sea of white people, mostly women, holding signs at the 2024 RNC that say 'mass deportations now!'


Project 2025: The Minority Rule by Extremists

I’ve been waiting, sitting at my desk with hands tented, for historian Heather Cox Richardson to write about Project 2025 and just now I found out that she did so back in March, because of course.

In almost 1,000 pages, the document explains what these policies mean for ordinary Americans. Restoring the family and protecting children means making “family authority, formation, and cohesion” a top priority and using “government power…to restore the American family.” That, the document says, means eliminating any words associated with sexual orientation or gender identity, gender, abortion, reproductive health, or reproductive rights from any government rule, regulation, or law. Any reference to transgenderism is “pornography” and must be banned.

The overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision recognizing the right to abortion must be gratefully celebrated, the document says, but the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision accomplishing that end “is just the beginning.”

Dismantling the administrative state in this document starts from the premise that “people are policy.” Frustrated because nonpartisan civil employees thwarted much of Trump’s agenda in his first term, the authors of Project 2025 call for firing much of the current government workforce-about 2 million people work for the U.S. government-and replacing it with loyalists who will carry out a right-wing president’s demands.

On Friday, journalist Daniel Miller noted that purging the civil service is a hallmark of dictators, whose loyalists then take over media, education, courts, and the military. In a powerful essay today, scholar of authoritarianism Timothy Snyder explained that with the government firmly in the hands of a dictator’s loyalists, “things like water or schools or Social Security checks” depend on your declaration of loyalty, and there is no recourse. “You cannot escape to the bar or the bowling alley, since everything you say is monitored,” and “[e]ven courageous people restrain themselves to protect their children.”

It’s worth reading in full. I wish Richardson did better at citing her sources than an unordered list of links at the end of each article (and also, I wish she weren’t on Substack), so here’s the Daniel Miller note from the excerpt above:

You know who else purged the civil service: OrbΓ‘n, Erdoğan, ChΓ‘vez, Milosevic, Ayatollah Khomeini, Pinochet… There was also this guy in Germany in 1933 who purged the civil service months after taking power.

And here’s Timothy Snyder on dictators and declarations of loyalty:

The new bureaucrats will have no sense of accountability. Basic government functions will break down. Citizens who want access will learn to pay bribes. Bureaucrats in office thanks to patronage will be corrupt, and citizens will be desperate. Quickly the corruption becomes normal, even unquestioned.

As the fantasy of strongman rule fades into everyday dictatorship, people realize that they need things like water or schools or Social Security checks. Insofar as such goods are available under a dictatorship, they come with a moral as well as a financial price. When you go to a government office, you will be expected to declare your personal loyalty to the strongman.

If you have a complaint about these practices, too bad. Americans are litigious people, and many of us assume that we can go to the police or sue. But when you vote a strong man in, you vote out the rule of law. In court, only loyalism and wealth will matter. Americans who do not fear the police will learn to do so. Those who wear the uniform must either resign or become the enforcers of the whims of one man.


On Politics and Poetry

a songbird perched on a branch

In order for me to write poetry that isn’t political
I must listen to the birds
and in order to hear the birds
the warplanes must be silent.

β€”Marwan Makhoul


“15 Books About Appalachia to Read Instead of Hillbilly Elegy”

covers of the four books mentioned in this post

From Kendra Winchester at Book Riot:

Since Hillbilly Elegy came out in 2016, I’ve experienced countless people claiming to now “understand” where I come from and what Appalachian people are like. But they don’t think of my childhood watching my dad lose himself while arranging music on his piano or my grandfather tenderly nurturing plants in his ridiculously large garden. Instead, they imagine the stereotypes of J.D. Vance’s version of Appalachia, where the entire region is made up of poor rural white people consumed with violence who have no one to blame but themselves for their life circumstances.

Vance is of course the Republican VP candidate who once called Trump “America’s Hitler”, supports total abortion bans, and says he would not have certified the results of the 2020 election.

Winchester goes on to recommend fifteen books about Appalachia that will provide a clearer view of the region and the people who live there. They include:

What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte. “If you’re still wondering why Hillbilly Elegy is so problematic, I’d suggest starting with What You’re Getting Wrong About Appalachia.”

Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place by bell hooks. “In this poetry collection, she laments how Black Appalachians are all too often left out of narratives about Appalachia.”

Any Other Place by Michael Croley. “Croley’s perspective as a Korean American informs his writing as his stories deal with many topics around race, identity, and belonging.”

When These Mountains Burn by David Joy. “When These Mountains Burn features two men deeply impacted by the opioid crisis in Appalachia.”

See also Hillbillies Need No Elegy, an excerpt from Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy.

Reply Β· 4

Project 2025 in a Nutshell

Yesterday I posted about The Terrifying Project 2025, the conservative plan to reshape America in the event of Trump’s victory in November. Marisa Kabas wrote a great one-sentence summary of the project:

Project 2025 is conservatives’ vision for an American society that’s a result of gutting all the gains made by the civil rights, abortion rights, LGBTIA+ rights, voting rights and environmental rights movements in order to establish an authoritarian government run by loyalists committed to serving a white, Christian nationalist agenda.

What I like about that description is that the authors of the plan wouldn’t really disagree with it. The plan’s uncomplicated & proud sincerity in wanting to roll back all the rights fought for in this country since the 1950s is what makes it so alarming.


The Terrifying Project 2025

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich on Project 2025, the extremist conservative plan for America if Trump wins the 2024 election β€” a wish-list to continue their fascist takeover of America.

One key goal of Project 2025 is to purge all government agencies of anyone more loyal to the constitution than to Trump β€” a process Trump himself started in October 2020 when he thought he would remain in office.

Trump has promised to give rightwing evangelical Christians what they want. Accordingly, Project 2025 calls for withdrawing the abortion pill mifepristone from the market, expelling trans service members from the military, banning life-saving gender affirming care for young people, ending all diversity programs, and using “school choice” to gut public education.

Project 2025 also calls for eliminating “woke propaganda” from all laws and federal regulations β€” including the terms “sexual orientation”, “diversity, equity, and inclusion”, “gender equality”, and “reproductive rights”.

Other items in the Project 2025 blueprint are precisely what Trump has called for on the campaign trail, including mass arrests and deportations of undocumented people in the United States, ending many worker protections, dropping prosecutions of far-right militias like the Proud Boys, and giving additional tax cuts to big corporations and the rich.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that climate change is a “hoax”. Project 2025 calls for expanding oil drilling in the United States, shrinking the geographic footprint of national monuments, terminating clean energy incentives, and ending fossil fuel regulations.

Trump has said he’d seek vengeance against those who have prosecuted him for his illegal acts. Project 2025 calls for the prosecution of district attorneys Trump doesn’t like, and the takeover of law enforcement in blue cities and states.

The 900-page document was prepared by Heritage Foundation, whose president stated recently on a right-wing podcast that “We are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be”. (This is the same logic used by abusers: “Why did you make me do that to you?”)

[The Wikipedia article about Project 2025 seems like a pretty good summary with lots of direct quotes and citations.]

This all sounds sort of alarmist until you actually read what’s written in the document, like this passage on abortions:

Because liberal states have now become sanctuaries for abortion tourism, HHS should use every available tool, including the cutting of funds, to ensure that every state reports exactly how many abortions take place within its borders, at what gestational age of the child, for what reason, the mother’s state of residence, and by what method.

It’s like that old bit of advice: “When people show you who they are, believe them”. Conservatives are literally telling us their plans for exacting a fascist regime under Trump…we should believe them.

More on Project 2025 from John Oliver:

The consequences of Schedule F could be catastrophic for the government. As Jacqueline Simon, the policy director for the American Federation of Government Employees, put it: “There will be a massive exodus of competence.”

“When you fire everyone who knows what they’re doing and only hire people who will say yes to the rich guy in charge, that’s not a recipe for good government,” Oliver added. “It’s a recipe for the Titan submersible.”

With a civil service full of loyalty appointees, Trump wouldn’t need Congress to pass a national ban on abortion drugs, for example, when his head of the Food and Drug Administration could just rule them “unsafe” β€” a plan specifically outlined in Project 2025.

Education Week simply states one of Project 2025’s goals: “The U.S. Department of Education would be eliminated.”

Politico: Trump allies prepare to infuse ‘Christian nationalism’ in second administration:

The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 offers more visibility into what policy agenda a future Trump administration might pursue. It says policies that support LGBTQ+ rights, subsidize “single-motherhood” and penalize marriage should be repealed because subjective notions of “gender identity” threaten “Americans’ fundamental liberties.”

It also proposes increasing surveillance of abortion and maternal mortality reporting in the states, compelling the Food and Drug Administration to revoke approval of “chemical abortion drugs” and protecting “religious and moral” objections for employers who decline contraception coverage for employees. One of the groups that partners with Project 2025, Turning Point USA, is among conservative influencers that health professionals have criticized for targeting young women with misleading health concerns about hormonal birth control. Another priority is defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health care to low-income women.

The Guardian: US hard-right policy group condemned for ‘dehumanising’ anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric:

Purveyors of pornography, Roberts writes, “are child predators and misogynistic exploiters of women. Their product is as addictive as any illicit drug and as psychologically destructive as any crime. Pornography should be outlawed. The people who produce and distribute it should be imprisoned. Educators and public librarians who purvey it should be classed as registered sex offenders. And telecommunications and technology firms that facilitate its spread should be shuttered.”

And I found these two pieces helpful in explaining the plan: Project 2025: A wish list for a Trump presidency, explained (BBC) and Project 2025, the policy substance behind Trump’s showmanship, reveals a radical plan to reshape the world (The Conversation).


How to Stop Fascism: Five Lessons of the Nazi Takeover

From Timothy Snyder again, this time on what lessons we can draw on to prevent America’s collapse into fascism.

4. Big business should support democracy. In the Germany of the 1930s, business leaders were not necessarily enthusiastic about Hitler as a person. But they associated democracy with labor unions and wanted to break them. Seeing Hitler as an instrument of their own profit, business leaders enabled the Nazi regime. This was, in the end, very bad for business. Although the circumstances today are different, the general lesson is the same: whether they like it or not, business leaders bear responsibility for whether a republic endures or is destroyed.

I loved his succinct conclusion:

It’s simple: recalling history, we act in the present, for a future that can and will be much better.


Fascism and Fear and the Media

Do Not Obey In Advance

Historian and scholar Timothy Snyder, who wrote On Tyranny and this amazing piece about the fascism of Trump and the conservative movement, wrote about a crucial difference in how the media are covering Biden versus how they cover Trump.

It should seem odd that media calls to step down were not first directed to Trump. If we are calling for Biden to step aside because someone must stop Trump from bringing down the republic, then surely it would have made more sense to first call for Trump to step aside? (The Philadelphia Inquirer did). I know the counter-arguments: his people wouldn’t have cared, and he wouldn’t have listened. The first misses an important point. There are quite a few Americans who have not made up their minds. The second amounts to obeying in advance. If you accept that a fascist is beyond your reach, you have normalized your submission.

“Do not obey in advance” is Snyder’s very first lesson from his 20 Lessons from the 20th Century about fighting authoritarianism:

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

Note: Illustration by the awesome Chris Piascik.


We Talking About Practice

From Heather Cox Richardson, writing on the night of the debate, a reminder of just how bad Trump’s performance was, a shambolic spectacle that was met with shrugs because that’s what we expect of him:

In contrast, Trump came out strong but faded and became less coherent over time. His entire performance was either lies or rambling non-sequiturs. He lied so incessantly throughout the evening that it took CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale almost three minutes, speaking quickly, to get through the list.

Trump said that some Democratic states allow people to execute babies after they’re born and that every legal scholar wanted Roe v. Wade overturned β€” both fantastical lies. He said that the deficit is at its highest level ever and that the U.S. trade deficit is at its highest ever: both of those things happened during his administration. He lied that there were no terrorist attacks during his presidency; there were many. He said that Biden wants to quadruple people’s taxes β€” this is “pure fiction,” according to Dale β€” and lied that his tax cuts paid for themselves; they have, in fact, added trillions of dollars to the national debt.

Richardson also quotes Monique Pressley’s debate night tweet, which is perhaps the most crisp and concise summary of the whole thing:

The proof of Biden’s ability to run the country is the fact that he is running it. Successfully. Not a debate performance against a pathological lying sociopath.

Maybe this is just me, but I immediately thought of Allen Iverson’s response to a question about practice from the media:

Listen, we talking about practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game. We talking about practice. Not a game, not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game. We talking about practice, man.

While he might be fine at blustering his way through debates (practice), Trump, famously, was bad at being president and actually didn’t like the job (the game). Like, we don’t have to imagine how Trump would perform as president because he did the job, poorly & ruinously, for four years. Biden has logged 3.5 years as president and has been very productive on behalf of the American people. We can directly compare them! And their teams! Politics & governance is a team sport, and Trump’s team is a flaming dumpster fire. So let’s stop talking about practice (and the media’s horse race coverage) and start focusing on the game.


Appalling vs. a Whole Other Level of Appalling

Rebecca Solnit: Why is the pundit class so desperate to push Biden out of the race?

I am not usually one to offer diagnoses of people I’ve never met, but it does seem like the pundit class of the American media is suffering from severe memory loss. Because they’re doing exactly what they did in the 2016 presidential race β€” providing wildly asymmetrical and inflammatory coverage of the one candidate running against Donald J Trump.

They have become a stampeding herd producing an avalanche of stories suggesting Biden is unfit, will lose and should go away, at a point in the campaign in which replacing him would likely be somewhere between extremely difficult and utterly catastrophic. They do this while ignoring something every scholar and critic of journalism knows well and every journalist should. As Nikole Hannah-Jones put it: “As media we consistently proclaim that we are just reporting the news when in fact we are driving it. What we cover, how we cover it, determines often what Americans think is important and how they perceive these issues yet we keep pretending it’s not so.” They are not reporting that he is a loser; they are making him one.

I’ve been watching this play out over the last few weeks and whatever the media (especially the NY Times) and pundits are doing here is much more alarming to me than Biden’s poor debate performance. Especially considering:

Speaking of coups, we’ve had a couple of late, which perhaps merit attention as we consider who is unfit to hold office. This time around, Trump is not just a celebrity with a lot of sexual assault allegations, bankruptcies and loopily malicious statements, as he was in 2016. He’s a convicted criminal who orchestrated a coup attempt to steal an election both through backroom corruption and public lies and through a violent attack on Congress. The extremist US supreme court justices he selected during his last presidential term themselves staged a coup this very Monday, overthrowing the US constitution itself and the principle that no one is above the law to make presidents into kings, just after legalizing bribery of officials, and dismantling the regulatory state by throwing out the Chevron deference.

*hair-tearing-out sounds*


Supreme Court: Zero Days Since Last Incident

Heather Cox Richardson writing last night for her Letters from an American newsletter:

Today the United States Supreme Court overthrew the central premise of American democracy: that no one is above the law.

It decided that the president of the United States, possibly the most powerful person on earth, has “absolute immunity” from criminal prosecution for crimes committed as part of the official acts at the core of presidential powers. The court also said it should be presumed that the president also has immunity for other official acts as well, unless that prosecution would not intrude on the authority of the executive branch.

This is a profound change to our fundamental law β€” an amendment to the Constitution, as historian David Blight noted. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said that a president needs such immunity to make sure the president is willing to take “bold and unhesitating action” and make unpopular decisions, although no previous president has ever asserted that he is above the law or that he needed such immunity to fulfill his role. Roberts’s decision didn’t focus at all on the interest of the American people in guaranteeing that presidents carry out their duties within the guardrails of the law.

But this extraordinary power grab does not mean President Joe Biden can do as he wishes. As legal commentator Asha Rangappa pointed out, the court gave itself the power to determine which actions can be prosecuted and which cannot by making itself the final arbiter of what is “official” and what is not. Thus any action a president takes is subject to review by the Supreme Court, and it is reasonable to assume that this particular court would not give a Democrat the same leeway it would give Trump.

There is no historical or legal precedent for this decision.

As I’ve noted before, Richardson’s book Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America is an excellent way to get yourself up to speed on the origins of this decades-long project by the Republicans to subvert American democracy. From a review of the book by Virginia Heffernan:

She has an intriguing origin point for today’s afflictions: the New Deal. The first third of the book, which hurtles toward Donald Trump’s election, is as bingeable as anything on Netflix. “Democracy Awakening” starts in the 1930s, when Americans who’d been wiped out in the 1929 stock market crash were not about to let the rich demolish the economy again. New Deal programs designed to benefit ordinary people and prevent future crises were so popular that by 1960 candidates of both parties were advised to simply “nail together” coalitions and promise them federal funding. From 1946 to 1964, the liberal consensus β€” with its commitments to equality, the separation of church and state, and the freedoms of speech, press and religion β€” held sway.

But Republican businessmen, who had caused the crash, despised the consensus. Richardson’s account of how right-wingers appropriated the word “socialism” from the unrelated international movement is astute. When invoked to malign all government investment, “socialism” served to recruit segregationist Democrats, who could be convinced that the word meant Black people would take their money, and Western Democrats, who resented government protections on land and water. This new Republican Party created an ideology that coalesced around White Christianity and free markets.


Supreme Court Rules That Presidents Have Absolute Immunity for “Core Constitutional Powers”

I don’t even know what to say about this. From Justice Sotomayor’s dissent (starting on page 68):

The President of the United States is the most powerful person in the country, and possibly the world. When he uses his official powers in any way, under the majority’s reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution. Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.

Let the President violate the law, let him exploit the trappings of his office for personal gain, let him use his official power for evil ends. Because if he knew that he may one day face liability for breaking the law, he might not be as bold and fearless as we would like him to be. That is the majority’s message today.

Even if these nightmare scenarios never play out, and I pray they never do, the damage has been done. The relationship between the President and the people he serves has shifted irrevocably. In every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law.

And her closing:

Never in the history of our Republic has a President had reason to believe that he would be immune from criminal prosecution if he used the trappings of his office to violate the criminal law. Moving forward, however, all former Presidents will be cloaked in such immunity. If the occupant of that office misuses official power for personal gain, the criminal law that the rest of us must abide will not provide a backstop.

With fear for our democracy, I dissent.

Jesus. With fear for our democracy, I dissent. I wish I knew what else to say or think about this, but Jesus.


The Message by Ta-Nehisi Coates

book cover of The Message by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is coming out with a new book this fall (Oct 1, 2024) called The Message and it sounds really interesting:

Ta-Nehisi Coates originally set out to write a book about writing, in the tradition of Orwell’s classic “Politics and the English Language,” but found himself grappling with deeper questions about how our stories β€” our reporting and imaginative narratives and mythmaking β€” expose and distort our realities.

In the first of the book’s three intertwining essays, Coates, on his first trip to Africa, finds himself in two places at once: in Dakar, a modern city in Senegal, and in a mythic kingdom in his mind. Then he takes readers along with him to Columbia, South Carolina, where he reports on his own book’s banning, but also explores the larger backlash to the nation’s recent reckoning with history and the deeply rooted American mythology so visible in that city β€” a capital of the Confederacy with statues of segregationists looming over its public squares. Finally, in the book’s longest section, Coates travels to Palestine, where he sees with devastating clarity how easily we are misled by nationalist narratives, and the tragedy that lies in the clash between the stories we tell and the reality of life on the ground.

Coates was recently a guest on the Longform podcast and he talked about one of the central themes of the book (“how the stories we tell β€” and the ones we don’t β€” shape our realities”):

There’s a certain sector of politics on the right that really correctly understands that cultural issues are very, very powerful, actually. That books and movies and TV shows and monuments and statues and art, all that stuff actually really does matter and has a huge effect on what we consider actual politics, which is to say voting, legislation, etcetera. Because our whole notions of humanity are derived from these things. They’re derived from, you know, stories. They’re derived from the news. They’re derived from, you know, art. They derive from statues. That’s how we decide, you know, who is what.

And the reason, you know it’s powerful is because in previous eras β€” for instance, when during the era of redemption, it became extremely important to destroy the multiracial democracies that have been raised in the South. They went after the history. They went after the stories. That’s where all those monuments come from. Those monuments are not just raised out of nothing. It’s not a mistake that it wasn’t until the early 1960s the Southern states started putting up the Confederate battle flag. They understood the power of the symbol. They know. They know. And now they find themselves in an era where there is a very real cultural war, by which I mean: the hegemony that they once enjoyed over the culture is actually actively being challenged, and that is a long term threat to the politics that they represent.

So, I mean, a lot of people say, oh, this is a distraction. I actually think it’s quite intelligent. While it’s not the response I would have, I don’t think it’s a deluded response or delusional response, rather.

It sounds fascinating β€” I definitely preordered.

Reply Β· 2

Our Unpleasant Privatized Reality

Hamilton Nolan, Everyone Into The Grinder:

Rich kids should go to public schools. The mayor should ride the subway to work. When wealthy people get sick, they should be sent to public hospitals. Business executives should have to stand in the same airport security lines as everyone else. The very fact that people want to buy their way out of all of these experiences points to the reason why they shouldn’t be able to. Private schools and private limos and private doctors and private security are all pressure release valves that eliminate the friction that would cause powerful people to call for all of these bad things to get better. The degree to which we allow the rich to insulate themselves from the unpleasant reality that others are forced to experience is directly related to how long that reality is allowed to stay unpleasant. When they are left with no other option, rich people will force improvement in public systems. Their public spirit will be infinitely less urgent when they are contemplating these things from afar than when they are sitting in a hot ER waiting room for six hours themselves.

See also Ranjan Roy’s The Sweetgreen-ification of Society and Tom Junod’s The Water-Park Scandal and Two Americas in the Raw: Are We a Nation of Line-Cutters, or Are We the Line? about the introduction of a cut-the-line pass at a waterpark:

It wouldn’t be so bad, if the line still moved. But it doesn’t. It stops, every time a group of people with Flash Passes cut to the front. You used to be able to go on, say, three or four rides an hour, even on the most crowded days. Now you go on one or two. After four hours at Whitewater the other day, my daughter and I had gone on five. And so it’s not just that some people can afford to pay for an enhanced experience. It’s that your experience - what you’ve paid full price for - has been devalued. The experience of the line becomes an infernal humiliation; and the experience of avoiding the line becomes the only way to enjoy the water park.

And this quote from the former mayor of BogotΓ‘, Enrique PeΓ±alosa:

An advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars, but rather one where even the rich use public transport.


Jon Stewart on Cancel Culture

Jon Stewart is back on The Daily Show on a regular basis and the other day he took on the manufactured outrage that is cancel culture.

Nothing about the right wing reaction is surprising because the idea that there is an all pervasive, all powerful threat to free speech called cancel culture has become a central tenet of modern conservatism. They celebrate their being silenced at conferences. They celebrate their being silenced on podcasts and streaming outlets. They celebrate their being silenced with over 700 book titles about being canceled. Why are there so many of these fucking books?

Conservatives have an entire industry devoted to complaining about not being allowed to say the things they say all the time. Their victimhood is the entire brand.

And:

We are not censored or silenced. We are surrounded by and inundated with more speech than has ever existed in the history of communication.


Contenting Ourselves With Stories

I just started a rewatch of Chernobyl and was struck by the opening lines of the first episode spoken by Jared Harris, who plays Soviet nuclear physicist Valery Legasov:

What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all. What can we do then? What else is left but to abandon even the hope of truth and content ourselves instead with stories? In these stories, it doesn’t matter who the heroes are. All we want to know is: Who is to blame?

Which reminds me of what historian and philosopher Hannah Arendt said in a 1974 interview:

The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie-a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days-but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

And also what On Tyranny author Timothy Snyder wrote a few days after the January 6th attack on Congress:

Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around, and the era of Trump β€” like the era of Vladimir Putin in Russia β€” is one of the decline of local news. Social media is no substitute: It supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true.

Reply Β· 5

The Kids Are Right (and Alright)

Osita Nwanevu on the recent US campus protests:

The student left is the most reliably correct constituency in America. Over the past 60 years, it has passed every great moral test American foreign policy has forced upon the public, including the Vietnam war, the question of relations with apartheid South Africa, and the Iraq war. Student activists were at the heart of the black civil rights movement from the very beginning. To much derision and abuse, they pushed for more rights, protections and respect for women and queer people on their campuses than the wider world was long willing to provide. And over the past 20 years in particular, policymakers have arrived belatedly to stances on economic inequality, climate change, drug policy and criminal justice that putative radicals on campus took up long before them.

They have not always been right; even when right, their prescriptions for the problems they’ve identified and their means of directing attention to them have not always been prudent. But time and time and time again, the student left in America has squarely faced and expressed truths our politicians and all the eminent and eloquent voices of moderation in the press, in all of their supposed wisdom and good sense, have been unable or unwilling to see. Straining against an ancient and immortal prejudice against youth, it has made a habit of telling the American people, in tones that discomfit, what they need to hear before they are ready to hear it.

(via @anildash.com)


The Demon of Unrest by Erik Larson

Demon Of Unrest

Oh man, I screwed up big-time you guys and owe you an apology. The great Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City, The Splendid and the Vile, In the Garden of Beasts) came out with a new book two weeks ago and I somehow missed it! I almost shrieked when I saw it on the bookstore front table yesterday.

Anyway, the book is called The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War (bookshop.org). Here’s the synopsis:

On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln became the fluky victor in a tight race for president. The country was bitterly at odds; Southern extremists were moving ever closer to destroying the Union, with one state after another seceding and Lincoln powerless to stop them. Slavery fueled the conflict, but somehow the passions of North and South came to focus on a lonely federal fortress in Charleston Harbor: Fort Sumter.

Master storyteller Erik Larson offers a gripping account of the chaotic months between Lincoln’s election and the Confederacy’s shelling of Sumter β€” a period marked by tragic errors and miscommunications, enflamed egos and craven ambitions, personal tragedies and betrayals. Lincoln himself wrote that the trials of these five months were “so great that, could I have anticipated them, I would not have believed it possible to survive them.”

With a movie out in theaters called Civil War and southern states once again agitating for “”“state’s rights”“” (I really can’t put enough exaggerated air-quotes around that phrase) in order to control bodily freedoms, The Demon of Unrest is really timely; Larson himself connects the events of the book with January 6th in a reader’s note:

I was well into my research on the saga of Fort Sumter and the advent of the American Civil War when the events of January 6, 2021, took place. As I watched the Capitol assault unfold on camera, I had the eerie feeling that present and past had merged. It is unsettling that in 1861 two of the greatest moments of national dread centered on the certification of the Electoral College vote and the presidential inauguration.

I was appalled by the attack, but also riveted. I realized that the anxiety, anger, and astonishment that I felt would certainly have been experienced in 1860-1861 by vast numbers of Americans. With this in mind, I set out to try to capture the real suspense of those long-ago months when the country lurched toward catastrophe, propelled by hubris, duplicity, false honor, and an unsatisfiable craving on the part of certain key actors for personal attention and affirmation. Many voices at the time of Sumter warned of civil war, but few had an inkling of what that might truly mean, and certainly none would have believed that any such war could take the lives of 750,000 Americans.

History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme. So anyway, I’m 60+ pages in and can already recommend it β€” you can get The Demon of Unrest at Amazon or bookshop.org.

Reply Β· 3

Squaring the Reality of What We See

Gareth Fearn writing for the London Review of Books about the student protests on US campuses: Liberalism without Accountability.

This is a toxic combination: universities reliant on investment portfolios in a system where mega-profits are made by companies that threaten and destroy human life, influenced by an increasingly radicalised class of billionaires, teaching students whose degrees won’t earn them enough to pay off their loans, managed by supine administrators threatened by (or willingly collaborating with) a reactionary right, who have decided that young people’s minds are being turned against capitalism not by their own lived experience of austerity and racialised police violence but by ‘woke Marxist professors’. This situation has now met with a live-streamed genocide which is supported, and brazenly lied about, by political leaders and commentators who claim to stand for truth and justice. Students, like much of the public, cannot square the reality of what they see with the world as constructed by politicians and the media.

Under such circumstances, pitching tents, raising placards and demanding divestment are really quite mild-mannered responses. That they have been met, in many US universities, with militarised policing reflects the fragility of liberalism β€” in the face of the growing hegemony of the conservative right as well as its own inability to offer a future even to Ivy League college students, let alone the less privileged.


The Flashlight Gun Is Peak WTF America

An officer “accidentally” fired his weapon during an NYPD raid on a student-occupied building at Columbia University on Tuesday. Apparently, he mistook his gun for a flashlight. You may be wondering: how could this happen? Well, like this. From a 2014 article in the Denver Post:

an illustration of a gun with a flashlight mounted on it, showing a second trigger for the light right under the first trigger

Ronny Flanagan took pride in his record as a police officer in Plano, Texas. He had an incident-free career. He took safety training regularly. He was known at the range as a very good shot.

Yet he killed a man when he was simply trying to press a flashlight switch mounted beneath the trigger on his pistol.

In a deposition, Flanagan expressed his remorse and made a prediction.

“I don’t want anyone to ever sit in a chair I’m in right now,” he said. “Think about the officers that aren’t as well trained, officers that don’t take it as seriously, and you put them in a pressure situation, another accident will happen. Not if, but will.”

Jeeeeesus Christ this is the most American shit ever. First of all: guns, guns, guns!! We love ‘em! Don’t forget the complete militarization of the police (they’ve got tanks!), which happens in tinpot countries where leaders fear the citizenry. Those gun flashlights were initially developed for the Navy SEALs and now city cops wield them around students.

And then. And then! There’s the completely genius idea of PUTTING A SECOND TRIGGER ON A GUN β€” I wish I had letters more uppercase than uppercase for this next part β€” RIGHT BELOW THE FIRST TRIGGER!!!!!!! 1
You know, the one that propels a projectile out of the weapon at deadly speeds!?

You’re familiar with those doors where the handle makes it seem like a pull but you actually have to push it? They’re called Norman doors, the canonical example of bad design. These flashlight guns are like Norman doors that kill people. W T Actual Fuck. (via @ygalanter.bsky.social)

  1. I know I’m gonna get email about this so I’ll stop you right there Johnny Gmail: I am sure “not all guns” πŸ₯΄ with flashlights are designed like this. I am positive that putting yet another switch on a firearm that’s designed to be used when the gun is pointed at something or someone is a Bad Idea. And anyway, this whole thing about being an “accident” is BS anyway…there is nothing accidental about where that officer was with the gear that he had, doing what he was doing. It is all perfectly predictable that guns are fired by militarized police in Gun Land USA.

“A 600-Year-Old Blueprint for Weathering Climate Change”

This is a fascinating article by Kathleen DuVal about how climate change (including the Little Ice Age) affected social and political structures in North America in the 13th and 14th centuries.

But then the climate reversed itself. In response, Native North American societies developed a deep distrust of the centralization, hierarchy, and inequality of the previous era, which they blamed for the famines and disruptions that had hit cities hard. They turned away from omnipotent leaders and the cities they ruled, and built new, smaller-scale ways of living, probably based in part on how their distant ancestors lived.

While Europeans reacted to the Little Ice Age by centralizing and militarizing under hereditary absolute monarchs, Native Americans went in a decidedly different direction:

The cities that Native Americans left behind during the Little Ice Age-ruins such as those at Chaco Canyon and Cahokia-led European explorers and modern archaeologists alike to imagine societal collapse and the tragic loss of a golden age. But oral histories from the generations that followed the cities’ demise generally described what came later as better. Smaller communities allowed for more sustainable economies. Determined not to depend on one source of sustenance, people supplemented their farming with increased hunting, fishing, and gathering. They expanded existing networks of trade, carrying large amounts of goods all across the continent in dugout canoes and on trading roads; these routes provided a variety of products in good times and a safety net when drought or other disasters stressed supplies. They developed societies that encouraged balance and consensus, in part to mitigate the problems caused by their changing climate.

Being an adult in the 21st century is the continual discovery of things you never learned in school β€” how climate change has altered the course of history and changed our societies was not adequately represented in my history classes. (See, for example, how climate change played a role in Brexit.)

DuVal’s article is excerpted from her upcoming book, Native Nations: A Millennium in North America (Bookshop), which sounds really interesting:

A millennium ago, North American cities rivaled urban centers around the world in size. Then, following a period of climate change and instability, numerous smaller nations emerged, moving away from rather than toward urbanization. From this urban past, egalitarian government structures, diplomacy, and complex economies spread across North America. So, when Europeans showed up in the sixteenth century, they encountered societies they did not understand-those having developed differently from their own-and whose power they often underestimated.

Reply Β· 4

The Enablers

This is quite a paragraph from Adam Gopnik’s New Yorker review (titled The Forgotten History of Hitler’s Establishment Enablers (subhead: “The Nazi leader didn’t seize power; he was given it.”)) of Timothy Ryback’s new book, Takeover: Hitler’s Final Rise to Power:

Ryback details, week by week, day by day, and sometimes hour by hour, how a country with a functional, if flawed, democratic machinery handed absolute power over to someone who could never claim a majority in an actual election and whom the entire conservative political class regarded as a chaotic clown with a violent following. Ryback shows how major players thought they could find some ulterior advantage in managing him. Each was sure that, after the passing of a brief storm cloud, so obviously overloaded that it had to expend itself, they would emerge in possession of power. The corporate bosses thought that, if you looked past the strutting and the performative antisemitism, you had someone who would protect your money. Communist ideologues thought that, if you peered deeply enough into the strutting and the performative antisemitism, you could spy the pattern of a popular revolution. The decent right thought that he was too obviously deranged to remain in power long, and the decent left, tempered by earlier fights against different enemies, thought that, if they forcibly stuck to the rule of law, then the law would somehow by itself entrap a lawless leader. In a now familiar paradox, the rational forces stuck to magical thinking, while the irrational ones were more logical, parsing the brute equations of power. And so the storm never passed. In a way, it still has not.

I got this via Clayton Cubitt, who says “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.”


The Problem With Loving the Unborn

This Facebook post from June 2018 by Dave Barnhart, a Methodist pastor, is worth quoting in full:

“The unborn” are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don’t resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don’t ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. It’s almost as if, by being born, they have died to you. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe.

Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.

(thx, caroline)

Reply Β· 3

The Bias of Perceived Independence

This is an interesting point by Chris Hayes about the difference between institutions (the NY Times, the Dept. of Justice, Facebook) trying to be independent and trying to be perceived as independent:

But here’s the rub, if your goal is to be perceived as independent, then you are wholly *dependent* on the perceptions of some group of people (in both cases conservatives/Republicans). And now, if you’re just courting their perceptions, then you’re no longer independent! In fact you’re the opposite; you’re entirely dependent on how they perceive you. You’ve just traded one form of audience or partisan capture for another!


When the Ceiling Gets Lower

Technology analyst & scholar Dan Wang was one of the folks on the walk and talk I did in northern Thailand back in December. In his annual letter for 2023, Wang recapped the walk, using it as a jumping-off point for his wheelhouse topic: China. Most interesting to me were his observations about the trend of Chinese moving abroad, including to Thailand.

Many people still feel ambivalence about moving to Thailand. Not everyone has mustered the courage to tell their Chinese parents where they really are. Mom and dad are under the impression that they’re studying abroad in Europe or something. That sometimes leads to elaborate games to maintain the subterfuge, like drawing curtains to darken the room when they video chat with family, since they’re supposed to be in a totally different time zone; or keeping up with weather conditions in the city they’re supposed to be so that they’re not surprised when parents ask about rain or snow.

There still are some corners in China that are relatively permissive. One of these is Yunnan’s Dali, a city on the northern tip of highland Southeast Asia, where I spent much of 2022. There, one can find the remnants of a drug culture as well as a party scene for an occasional rave. But even Dali is becoming less tenable these days since the central government has cottoned on that the city is a hub for free spirits. The tightening restrictions emanating from Beijing are spreading to every corner of the country. “China feels like a space in which the ceiling keeps getting lower,” one person told me. “To stay means that we have to walk around with our heads lowered and our backs hunched.”

I also recently read this piece about The Chinese Migrants of Chiang Mai by Amy Zhang (via Jodi Ettenberg)

What strikes me is how Thailand’s porousness β€” the fluidity of entries and exits due to the comparatively lax visa processes compared to other countries β€” mean that while some can stay and enroll their kids in school here, some may go back to China after a long visit, carrying new ideas and experiences with them home. And in this case, it’s Chinese feminism being discussed in Chiang Mai, while feminist and LGBTQ+ groups are being increasingly suppressed in China itself.

The sentiment in that line quoted by Wang β€” “China feels like a space in which the ceiling keeps getting lower” β€” probably feels quite familiar to many here in the United States, particularly women, LGBTQ+ folks, and their families living in states with increasingly draconian laws around bodily autonomy.

Reply Β· 1

America Is at a Familiar Crossroads

the book cover for Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America by Heather Cox Richardson

This is a great overview and review by Teri Kanefield of Heather Cox Richardson’s new book, Democracy Awakening.

She opens with: “America is at a crossroads.”

But crossroads aren’t new. We’ve been at them before.

She shows how this moment is part of an ongoing struggle between a small group of white people who think that America was founded on principles of white supremacy and should remain that way, and the rest of us.

Throughout US history, the white supremacists have seized power and implemented minority rule: secession, Jim Crow & anti-immigration laws. Then the majority pushes back: the Civil War & Reconstruction, The New Deal.

The current GOP is a backlash against Brown v Board of Education (the Supreme Court case that declared racial segregation in schools unconstitutional.)

Richardson traces in detail how that backlash happened, and how today’s backlash echoes the language and attitudes of the Confederacy.

She shows Nixon and others tied taxes to “redistributing wealth” to “undeserving” people as a way to get lower income racists aboard an economic agenda that hurt them.

I really have to make time to read this book!


A Manifesto from People Reluctant To Kill for an Abstraction

I ran across this Slate piece by George Saunders yesterday and thought it was worth reposting. (Content warning: this article lists many violent acts, none of which are performed.)

At precisely 9 in the morning, working with focus and stealth, our entire membership succeeded in simultaneously beheading no one. At 10, Phase II began, during which our entire membership did not force a single man to suck another man’s penis. Also, none of us blew himself/herself up in a crowded public place. No civilians were literally turned inside out via our powerful explosives. In addition, at 11, in Phase III, zero (0) planes were flown into buildings.

During Phase IV, just after lunch, we were able to avoid bulldozing a single home. Furthermore, we set, on roads in every city, in every nation in the world, a total of zero (0) roadside bombs which, not being there, did not subsequently explode, killing/maiming a total of nobody. No bombs were dropped, during the lazy afternoon hours, on crowded civilian neighborhoods, from which, it was observed, no post-bomb momentary silences were then heard. These silences were, in all cases, followed by no unimaginable, grief-stricken bellows of rage, and/or frantic imprecations to a deity. No sleeping baby was awakened from an afternoon nap by the sudden collapse and/or bursting into flame of his/her domicile during Phase IV.

It’s a timely reminder of the overwhelming huge number of people in the world who are not militant extremists β€” but also of the power held by the tiny minority that are.


The Origins of the Socialist Slur

The Atlantic has an adapted excerpt from Heather Cox Richardson’s new book, Democracy Awakening: The Origins of the Socialist Slur. It begins:

For years after World War II, the “liberal consensus” β€” the New Deal idea that the federal government had a role to play in regulating business, providing a basic social safety net, and promoting infrastructure β€” was a true consensus. It was so widely popular that in 1950, the critic Lionel Trilling wrote of the United States that “liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition.”

But the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional tied the federal government to ensuring not just economic equality, but also civil rights. Opponents of the liberal consensus argued that the newly active federal government was misusing tax dollars taken from hardworking white men to promote civil rights for “undeserving” Black people. The troops President Dwight Eisenhower sent to Little Rock Central High School in 1957, for example, didn’t come cheap. The government’s defense of civil rights redistributed wealth, they said, and so was virtually socialism.


Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America by Heather Cox Richardson

the book cover for Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America by Heather Cox Richardson

Heather Cox Richardson, author of the excellent Letters from an American newsletter, has a new book out today about the health of American democracy: Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America. From Virginia Heffernan’s review of the book in the Washington Post:

She has an intriguing origin point for today’s afflictions: the New Deal. The first third of the book, which hurtles toward Donald Trump’s election, is as bingeable as anything on Netflix. “Democracy Awakening” starts in the 1930s, when Americans who’d been wiped out in the 1929 stock market crash were not about to let the rich demolish the economy again. New Deal programs designed to benefit ordinary people and prevent future crises were so popular that by 1960 candidates of both parties were advised to simply “nail together” coalitions and promise them federal funding. From 1946 to 1964, the liberal consensus β€” with its commitments to equality, the separation of church and state, and the freedoms of speech, press and religion β€” held sway.

But Republican businessmen, who had caused the crash, despised the consensus. Richardson’s account of how right-wingers appropriated the word “socialism” from the unrelated international movement is astute. When invoked to malign all government investment, “socialism” served to recruit segregationist Democrats, who could be convinced that the word meant Black people would take their money, and Western Democrats, who resented government protections on land and water. This new Republican Party created an ideology that coalesced around White Christianity and free markets.

Heffernan calls this first part of Richardson’s book “the most lucid just-so story for Trump’s rise I’ve ever heard”. I’m in the midst of two other books right now (The Vaster Wilds & The Mountain in the Sea) but I might have to make room for a third.