McConaughey is a kind of chill A-lister with a record of civic engagement in Austin and a bordering-on-self-parody nonchalance, applied regularly to Lincoln car commercials. As a politician, he’s a blank book in many ways—but his range of movies gives him a huge menu of potential roles to play off of. Here’s a political reading of some of his top roles—and a snapshot of what they might do for him as a candidate.
When the COVID threat is gone, I predict that we’ll double down on the joys of physical friendship. I want to live dangerously with my besties. I want to double-dip in the guacamole. I want to sip your cocktail to see if I like it, too. I want to scream together into a karaoke microphone. I’ll pick the first song: “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
It started as a whim. On the first day of the pandemic lockdown, I noticed my dog and cat lying in a sunbeam, snapped a picture, and posted it to my seldom-used Instagram account. On the second day of lockdown, I posted a picture of a giant chocolate chip cookie I’d made in a skillet. I figured I’d use Instagram to count the next two weeks, which seemed the outer horizon for this strange new state of existence. We all know what happened next. Now, just as it’s unclear when the “COVID era” will end and we’ll be able to venture fully into the hugging, breathing, laughing, singing world, I’m not sure when this daily ritual should stop.
If there’s one idea the plebeian citizens of a former British colony should be able to unite around—the ultimate bipartisan issue—it’s a willingness to stick it to the monarchy. Wasn’t this what the founders fought a war for in the first place?
But there’s a good reason why the royal rift in England has prompted a political divide across the pond. The warring takes on Meghan and Harry mirror a difference in worldview that has governed domestic politics for years: between the left, with its focus on systemic change, and the right, with its emphasis on individual responsibility.
It shouldn’t be hard, one would think, to simply not tweet. That’s all it would have taken to spare Neera Tanden the situation she’s in: Had she kept her political outrage to herself, or shared it offline in the company of friends, she might be sailing to confirmation as director of the Office of Management and Budget, rather than watching the chances of her nomination slowly dwindle. And what would have been the loss? The internet is overflowing with snarky diatribes about Senators Susan Collins and Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell. A veteran political player, who might someday need Cruz or Collins or McConnell for a vote, should have known it would do her no good to pile on. And, on some level, she did know: In 2016, she told an interviewer, “I’m willing to concede I should tweet less.”
Instead, Tanden did what a lot of us do: She went for the dopamine hit, again and again.
If you’ve followed the epic dramas on cable, you’ve been trained to expect a certain kind of finale, and in many ways, the past two weeks have fit the pattern well. The January 6 riot felt like a penultimate episode, when the peak of the action takes place. Trump took a final stand to stay in power, fulfilling every ugly prophecy from his tweets as his loyalists betrayed him, one by one—even Mike Pence, in the end.
And on TV, the explosive final showdown is usually followed by comeuppance.
It was her willingness to excavate that suffering that made her writing so consequential; she hadn’t figured out her life, after all, but she had figured out how to describe it with such intensity that you couldn’t look away. An appreciation.
What happens when a splinter group breaks off from the fundamental American consensus that we can trust an election? The aftermath of the Bush-Kerry race offers one potential answer. And for anyone hoping that Trump’s followers will quietly fold themselves back into the system, the 2004 experience suggests otherwise. The splinter is still out there.
Across the country, in their cautious euphoria after the election, foes of Trump have been embracing the flag in similar ways: unfurling it in front of their homes, waving it in the streets, or simply looking at it differently. But the election, like the flag, doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. Where Trump’s opponents see a triumph of democracy, his fiercest supporters see something different; fueled by right-wing media, they’re still complaining about fraud, coups and stolen elections. And that unwillingness to unite over the basics of democracy—to acknowledge that, whether you like the results or not, the system works—is unlikely to disappear when Biden takes office.
Read the rest in Politico Magazine.
The notion of this tiny octogenarian, showing off not just undiminished mental power but also increasing physical strength, was a telling thrill. “The Notorious RBG” foreshadowed an evolving approach to age in politics—a way of not just appreciating the wisdom that comes with experience, but of viewing age itself, and the staying power it conveys, as actually cool. But it also created a risk.
Read the rest in Politico Magazine.