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.
Trump’s winking stance, jarring and inconsonant though it may be with the rest of liberals’ conception of him, is one of the essential, even primal ways the president keeps his base on board, laughing along. For Trump and his defenders, a little gentle self-mocking does more than just warm up a room. It can neutralize his opponents’ attacks. And it can let Trump off the hook even when he probably isn’t joking.
…While the Squad has made headlines for its forceful progressivism, Pressley has never quite matched the image of the brash outsider, pushing against the establishment with bare knuckles and take-no-prisoners rhetoric. Instead, herhistory in Boston—from her stints as a staffer for solidly mainstream Democrats to her eight years on the Boston City Council—has been a case study of pushing for change from within the system. At a time when fissures in the Democratic Party make national news, her approach in Boston City Hall actually points a way forward for Democrats who want to cast themselves as the party of change—and the party that gets things done.
“Truth Hurts,” by Lizzo, is the next truly transcendent kiss-off song, and it’s even sweeter for having a moment while not actually being new. After the song finally made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it stands at No. 6 at this writing, the Grammys announced that “Truth Hurts” will be eligible for awards this year.
On Twitter, Lizzo, the Minneapolis-based singer/rapper who trained as a classical flutist and once was a protégé of Prince, celebrated the Grammy news in all-caps: “THIS IS MY TESTIMONY MY HARD WORK PAYIN OFF A REMINDER TO NEVER GIVE UP!” That’s true. It’s also a reminder of the power of an angry song to make you feel great.
We’ve been watching TV together for most of her life, for good and bad: Caillou, American Idol, cheesy teen soaps on ABC Family, the occasional snippet of a political debate that I force her to watch. But there’s been nothing quite so educational as this season of The Bachelorette.