How Do You Fix a Problem Like Trumpism?
The president is only part of the problem. What do we do with our authoritarian compatriots?
look at this little rat.
What I’m writing
First! There is still space in the yoga and writing retreat I’m hosting in Tuscany in September. Please email me for more info. Two spots are left…
And if Tuscany doesn’t work, perhaps Costa Rica in February?
CNN - Trump Has Met His Match: The Squad.
CNN - The Nagging Problem with the Al Franken Case. I probably could have written another 1,000 words on this but here are a few:
Over and over again, we expect women to tolerate men's bad behavior -- or justify it by saying the man is just socially awkward, or desperate, or oblivious. This is one defense of Franken, made in a quote from comedian and Franken defender Sarah Silverman in Mayer's piece: that he is "a social -- not a sexual -- 'lip-kisser.'" Tellingly, everyone who reported being socially kissed on the lips by Franken was female.
It may indeed be that Franken is an awkward guy -- as described by other supporters -- whose intentions are pure. His acts, though, were still distressing (I am a big fan of Franken's politics and adored him as a politician; I still would not want to be kissed on the lips by him). And it is necessary to shift away from our knee-jerk impulse to excuse badly-behaved men as well-meaning while holding women to standards of perfect decision-making (and even making them responsible for men). That impulse to give men a pass comes from a fundamental assumption that men are deserving: of Senate seats, of unrestrained expressions of sexuality, of power, of personality foibles, even if those foibles make them anti-social and involve violating entirely reasonable and predictable physical boundaries.
Why should women have to tolerate behavior that is neither standard nor socially acceptable -- that is frankly gross -- in order to accommodate a socially inept man? It's hard to imagine, say, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez going through her career kissing her male colleagues on the mouth and having it shrugged off as "oh that's just Al!"
This assumption of deserving -- of belonging -- is also what keeps women out of the halls of power, or at least what makes us so conspicuous when we are there. Despite a record number of woman in Congress, we are nowhere near making up half of that supposedly representative body. Is that Al Franken's fault? Of course not. Did he benefit, electorally, personally and professionally -- and is he defended even now -- because of assumptions that he belonged and that his intent mattered more than his actions? Yes.
What I’m Reading
The Crane Wife. Please do take the time to read this incredible essay in the Paris Review.
These were small things, and I told myself it was stupid to feel disappointed by them. I had arrived in my thirties believing that to need things from others made you weak. I think this is true for lots of people but I think it is especially true for women. When men desire things they are “passionate.” When they feel they have not received something they need they are “deprived,” or even “emasculated,” and given permission for all sorts of behavior. But when a woman needs she is needy. She is meant to contain within her own self everything necessary to be happy.
That I wanted someone to articulate that they loved me, that they saw me, was a personal failing and I tried to overcome it.
Married couples in Japan are required(!) to have the same surname. Some women are trying to change that.
Online dating is, in so many ways, an incredible opportunity — the ability to meet and connect with many, many more potential mates than at any time in the past. But it can also heighten our sense of isolation. When dating is no longer a community effort but an individual one, it can also feel like an individual burden, and an individual failure. This is only magnified when we are inundated with so many potential options.
But the deeper issue isn’t the number of options in the digital dating pool, or any specific life category, but rather the sheer tonnage of life choices, more generally. Gone are the days when young generations inherited religions and occupations and life paths from their parents as if they were unalterable strands of DNA. This is the age of DIY-everything, in which individuals are charged with the full-service construction of their careers, lives, faiths, and public identities. When in the 1840s the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard called anxiety “the dizziness of freedom,” he wasn’t slamming the door on modernity so much as foreseeing its existential contradiction: All the forces of maximal freedom are also forces of anxiety, because anybody who feels obligated to select the ingredients of a perfect life from an infinite menu of options may feel lost in the infinitude.
In Stebbins, Alaska, every single cop, including the police chief, has been convicted of domestic violence. Including Mike, a convicted sex offender, who had “been convicted of assault, domestic violence, vehicle theft, groping a woman, hindering prosecution, reckless driving, drunken driving and choking a woman unconscious in an attempted sexual assault. Among other crimes.”
This delightful public servant was fired for his love of Tupac, because nothing good in the world can remain.
Hi, meet the world’s most insufferable roommates.
I am entirely obsessed with this thread about peeing in space. Really. It’s good and you should read it. Also the men who ran the space program thought Sally Ride needed 100 tampons for a single menstrual cycle, so (1) time for more women at NASA, and (2) definitions of “genius” may vary.
The View From Here
Russia is meddling in our elections and we aren’t doing anything about it. There’s a lot to take away from Mueller’s testimony yesterday, even if it wasn’t full of the Hollywood blockbuster moments some people (who are you?) had hoped for. What is clear is that Russia, a foreign power generally hostile to American interests, is already meddling in the 2020 presidential election — and Trump is shrugging it off. I don’t think there’s a big conspiracy there; Trump cares about his own ego more than he cares about American democracy. Admitting that Russia poses a threat to our elections would mean admitting that they may have had a hand in influencing the last election, which would undermine his belief that he won because he is the most fabulous and popular president of all time. He’s willing, again, to compromise our most fundamental values in order to feed his own narcissism.
I suspect that if you subscribe to this newsletter, you probably also subscribe to pretty liberal views (maybe — I don’t know your life). But I remain deeply troubled by continued support for Trump, and frankly flummoxed by it. I understand that he delivers on at least some the things that many conservative voters apparently care about — limiting immigration, giving license to be as un-PC and offensive as you want. I understand that racism motivates a lot of his supporters. But I have a hard time imaging myself supporting a politician, no matter how closely their views reflected mine, who acted like Trump. I am about as close to 100% confident as I can be that I would be horrified by a leftist Trump — even if they checked every policy box, I would not vote for someone who was so vastly unqualified, and so ready to aggressively chip away at the pillars of our democracy.
That so many Americans shrug off these enormous (and terrifying) defects suggests that the problem of Trumpism isn’t just Trump, and that it will persist even if he loses in 2020. This is a rot that goes deep. As I watch the lead-up to 2020, I’m increasingly interested in hearing Democratic politicians speak to this point: What do we do to repair what is so broken?
What I don’t want to hear are platitudes about “healing” and “coming together.” This isn’t a question of same-old political divisions. It’s a question of morality, of character, and of a third of the population’s impulse to accept autocracy, strongman leadership, and anti-democratic actions. I want to know: What do we do to scale back this pernicious force?
I want to hear about plans for expanding and regulating education — not just free college, but strengthening our public education system. I want politicians to take on the tough questions of private, religious and home education, and speak to what they’re going to do to make sure that every student in the United States gets a full, accurate, high-quality education. I want to know how politicians are going to ensure that our democracy is representative — that every American citizen can vote, that voting is easy, that weighing in on who will represent you doesn’t depend on how wealthy you are or what racial group you’re a member of or where you live or if you’ve committed a crime. I want to know how politicians are going to ensure that “one person, one vote” is a reality in presidential elections — Trump was, after all, the second president in my lifetime to lose the popular vote and win the White House.
Trumpism is terrifying. That so many Americans were happy to jump onboard — and haven’t yet gotten off — should, sadly, undermine all of our confidence in the American project. It’s not too late to begin repairs on what is so obviously broken. But we need a leader who will make that her first priority.