Reading Round Up, Presidential Edition, November 5, 2016

Petula Dvorak gets right down to it in “The Epic Failure of the American Electorate” in the Washington Post.

You can find out if you are an informed voter with this PBS quiz.

Bill Clinton gets specific in “I am a White Southerner. I know what Make America Great Again Means.” In a speech in North Carolina, he named Republican racism for what is is:

“It means first, I’ll give you the economy you had 50 years ago, and second, I’ll give you the society you had 50 years ago: I’ll move you up and move somebody else down.”

And the society of 50—or 140—years ago is exactly what Republicans are aiming for. From North Carolina to Arkansas, Republicans are using voter suppression and voter intimidation to prevent people of color from getting to the polls. It’s almost like the Voting Rights Act was necessary after all.

Michael Shulson at Religion Dispatches walks us through the recent PRRI data suggesting that white evangelicals are way more likely today than in 2011—like 42 points more likely—to say that a little immorality in a president isn’t such a problem.

Given that he’s a racist, sexist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic child sex abusing creep, why does Donald Trump have any support at all? The New Yorker considers “Two Americas: Why Donald Trump Still has a Lot of Support.”

And Kurt Eichenwald, who needs to be getting all kinds of journalistic credit these days, explains “Why Vladimir Putin’s Russia is Backing Trump” in an op-ed in Newsweek.

Can neighbors survive political tension? Yes, says Joshua Rothman in “Red Neighbor, Blue Neighbor”—and more than survive but perhaps even transform politics. Or maybe the bitterness is sometimes too much, as Simon Adler shares in this fascinating Radiolab piece, inspired by reporting in the Omaha World-Herald, about how the tiny town of Seneca, Nebraska, couldn’t overcome its differences well enough to stay alive; instead, it voted itself out of existence (with the final vote being 16-17).

Evan Osnos gives us a glimpse into a Trump presidency in “President Trump’s First Term” in The New  Yorker. His begins by noting that the ugly, extended Trump campaign has itself provided us, with no digging in the dirt needed, ample evidence that the candidate is a monster:

After more than a year of candidate Trump, Americans are almost desensitized to each new failing exhumed from his past—the losing schemes and cheapskate cruelties, the discrimination and misogyny—much as they are to the daily indecencies of the present: the malice toward a grieving mother, the hidden tax records, the birther fiction and other lies.

Still, Osnos does the journalistic work to show us just how bad it would be. How bad? Awfully, awfully bad, in every domain, not the least of which would be our eventual realization that we hadn’t been suckered after all but had just refused to listen when Trump told us exactly who he was. Writes Osnos,

his victory would be not a failure of imagination but, rather, a retreat to it—the magical thought that his Presidency would be something other than the campaign that created it.

Pussy Riot’s video for “Make America Great Again.” The video contains images and words from Trump’s campaign that are bigoted, sexist, and violent. It also contains images of torture, sexual violence, abortion-related violence, and violence against women. 

Thank God for Pussy Riot. Given their previous work criticizing Trump’s friend Putin, they were well prepared to address Trump. In “Make America Great” (the video for which is extremely upsetting), they sing:

What do you want your world to look like?

What do you want it to be?

Do you know that a wall has two sides?

And nobody is free?

Did your mama come from Mexico?

Papa come from Palestine?

Sneaking all through Syria

Crossing all the border lines


Let other people in

Listen to your women

Stop killing black children

Make America Great Again


Could you imagine a politician

Calling a woman a dog??

Do you wanna stay in the kitchen?

Is that where you belong?

How do you picture the perfect leader?

Who do you want him to be?

Has he promoted the use of torture and killing families?


Let other people in

Listen to your women

Stop killing black children

Make America Great Again

Pussy Riot’s video from “Straight Outta Vagina.” 

More cheerfully, in “Straight Outta Vagina,” they sing a tribute to that most feared thing. Verse 4 is what I’ll be singing when I vote:


My pussy, my pussy

Is sweet just like a cookie

It goes to work, it makes the beats

It’s C.E.O., no rookie

From senator to bookie

We run this shit, got lookie

You can turn any page, any race, any age

From Russia to the States

We tearing up the place


I rip shit like Sinead O’Connor

I wear my vag as a badge of honor

I take pride in the way we rise

One love to Maya Angelou, the 8th world wonder

How we do it all, sometimes I wonder

I could play nice or I can bring that thunder

So sad I gotta end right here

But this vagina gotta go make them numbers


What’s on my reading wish list right now? Lincoln Inc.: Selling the Sixteenth President in Contemporary America by Jackie Hogan, Bully Nation: How the American Establishment Creates a Bullying Society by Charles Derber and Yale S. Magress, Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism by George Hawley, and The Rise of the President’s Permanent Campaign by Brendan J. Doherty.

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