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.
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.
A one-on-one connection is an art of the trade that most practiced politicians hone over years of courting voters in living rooms and VFW halls, shaking hands at state fairs and Veterans Day parades. But Trump has very little of this skill, and he has gotten very little practice at it over the course of the past four years. In part, that’s because, as a noted germaphobe, he has seldom seemed to want to engage in close-contact politics. And in part, it’s because his fans never expected that of him in the first place—his image was fully formed from the start as a brawler, not a touchy-feely friend.
Of you want to grade how successfully the Democrats sold Joe Biden to the public this week, the best point of comparison might be the way one company convinced millions of Americans they needed the Showtime Rotisserie. Or the Inside-the-Shell Egg Scrambler. Or the Cap Snaffler. Those were the 1990s-era Ronco products that became near-household names through the power of the infomercial. And the Democratic National Committee might have been taking notes. Because as far as infomercials go, their Buy-This-Biden show was a textbook product pitch.
This new image for Markey is the culmination of an unlikely alliance between a passionate, web-savvy group of young supporters and the official campaign. It’s a simple relationship in the internet age: Each helps the other go viral. While the campaign amplifies the students’ memes, the Gen Z fans convert some of that online energy into real-world organizing, sending likers and retweeters links to campaign sign-up sheets. And the campaign leans into the groundswell of youth energy, crafting an image of Markey as a veteran radical in sneakers, somewhere between ironic and iconic.
How has one renegade super PAC managed to trigger Trump and his allies so thoroughly? Part of it is surely frustration that a group of Republicans would issue a full-throated endorsement of Joe Biden. Part of it is skill: The Lincoln Project ads are slick, quick and filled with damning quotes and unflattering photos. But part of it might just be that Republicans are better at this than Democrats. Trump may sense that these ads are especially dangerous because they pack an emotional punch, using imagery designed to provoke anxiety, anger and fear—aimed at the very voters who were driven to him by those same feelings in 2016. And history, even science, suggests that might in fact be the case—that Republicans have a knack for scaring the hell out of people, and that makes for some potent ads.
This is the common take on Chris Cuomo: He’s an unshowered folk hero in sweats and a baseball cap, battling adversity to inform the public, modeling a strict approach to quarantine. But however well-intentioned they surely are, Cuomo and his champions are modeling something else: a pervasive, troublesome, even dangerous attitude about the virtues of working through illness. Even if he doesn’t risk infecting anyone, as he broadcasts alone from his basement lair, Cuomo’s presence on TV reinforces the very American pressure to work even when you’re sick, at a moment when lives depend on the opposite: people feeling comfortable enough to take off of work when they feel even slightly ill.