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What matters now. A publication from Medium about politics, power, and culture.

Once Republicans became the party of fantasies and tantrums and putting on a show, Marjorie Taylor Greene was inevitable

Back in 2016, as I finished writing Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, my book about our founding national weakness for mixing fiction and reality in problematic ways, I wondered if I’d attributed too much significance to postmodern professional wrestling. I wrote about how boundaries between entertainment and the rest of life were definitively dismantled in the 1980s and 90s, after which America “became an amazing coast-to-coast theme park, open twenty-four hours.” …


Protection against illness and death should be enough to convince people to roll up their sleeves. But since it isn’t, let’s bring on the gimmicks.

“You can’t win if you don’t play!”

“Odds are, you’ll have fun!”

These are slogans I knew growing up, along with a 7:30 pm prohibition on any child-made sound as the Ohio Pick-3 aired on TV. My dad would strategize, consult tattered books listing previous winning numbers, carefully choose his number combination, and lay out a dollar or two he’d almost always lose. But he won enough to keep him interested, betting his luck might change.

There’s a certain brilliance in Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s “Vax-a-Million” announcement. Over the next five weeks, each week a $1 million dollar winner will…


POLITICS

Over 150 prominent Republicans issue “A Call for American Renewal”

Wow, if you had told me twenty years ago, as Dubya and Dr. Evil orchestrated the First Big Lie — that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq — that it would be a Cheney who started the great exodus from the Republican Party, I would have thought you mad. But welcome to the alternate universe of a post-Trump, almost-post-COVID world. What is up is down; what is down is sideways. …


Rahm Emanuel is why we can’t have nice things.

A vision of Hell from Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights,’ with a superimposed kicking donkey in red, white and blue livery with white stars, in the style of the Democratic Party mascot.
A vision of Hell from Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights,’ with a superimposed kicking donkey in red, white and blue livery with white stars, in the style of the Democratic Party mascot.

Sometimes, a casual conversation turns out to be prophetic and stays with you for decades to come. In 2006, I had lunch at the LA World Science Fiction Convention with Eric Flint when the subject of Barack Obama came up. I admitted that his incredible rhetoric gave me hope.

Flint — a union organizer from Chicago — quickly disabused me. Obama, he said, was a Chicago Machine Democrat, and that meant he was a cynical horse-trader whose version of “democracy” was for insiders to do deals in backrooms, without accountability or transparency.

Those words stayed with me through the Obama…


The panic over gender-neutral reproductive health language has another eye-rolling favorite phrase

On Mother’s Day this past Sunday, conservatives on Twitter rallied around their new favorite joke — which is really just a variation on their one joke.

“Happy Birthing Person’s Day,” they all tweeted, rolling in retweets and the shared laughter of a bunch of usernames consisting of a first name followed by a bunch of numbers.

Ben Shapiro, the Babylon Bee, and countless other right-wingers all parroted the same punch line without a hint of originality. …


The New York Times is right: We need climate self-care more than climate diets

This weekend The New York Times published a smart, thoughtful review of The Climate Diet, a book I have out this spring from Penguin Press. Over the years I’ve trained myself to let criticism of my work stand for itself. Having written my fair share of reviews of environmental books I understand that it’s a surprisingly tough job and the last thing a reviewer needs after drafting a time-consuming essay is an extended dialogue with an author. All that said, this reviewer raised such a salient point that I felt I should offer up a reply.

I used that title…


The family’s recent response to his child pornography charges only underscores how complementarianism elevates men over the vulnerable, leaving women to deal with the fallout

This week Josh Duggar appeared in court on child pornography charges. Duggar became a public figure after starring in the TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting, which was canceled in 2015 after news surfaced that, as a teen, Duggar had molested four of his sisters and a family friend.

At the child pornography hearing, a Homeland Security Investigations special agent described the more than 200 images said to have been downloaded on Duggar’s devices in May 2019. They depicted sexual abuse of children ages 18 months to 12 years old. …


An explanation for people’s attraction to QAnon, the Plandemic hoax, and more

From the conviction that there is a secret cabal of nefarious liberals puppeteering our lives to the belief that the moon landing was a hoax, conspiracy theories are a constant subject of perverse fascination in American culture. To believers, these theories explain the inexplicable; to outsiders they’re utter poppycock. …


The world’s most visible trans woman has kicked off her gubernatorial campaign by demonizing trans women in sports. How do we call her out?

A microphone.
A microphone.

Quick: When you think back on the past half-decade of political campaigns, what do you miss? Is it pointless celebrity vanity campaigns? Irresponsible culture war fearmongering? Do you love having bitter arguments about Representation and Tokenism and how the press ought to cover a problematic female candidate?

Buckle up, friend: Caitlyn Jenner is running for Governor of California, and her first major policy recommendation is banning trans girls from sports.

“This is a question of fairness,” Jenner told a reporter from TMZ this weekend. “That’s why I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls’ sports in school. It…


There is rage, yes, but also endless disappointment

Before I even got out of bed this morning, I read this long piece in Slate about Blake Bailey, the author of the recent Philip Roth biography whose publication has been frozen amid allegations of rape and sexual assault, as well as grooming young students. I can’t stop reading about it. There are more stories, memories, allegations surfacing from his former students, and it’s bringing up feelings. I was fortunate to talk to a couple friends who are also women writers about this over Zoom the other night. …

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