How RBG Made Old Age Look Cool

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.

Donald Trump Is a Terrible Retail Politician. Will it matter in November?

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.

Read the rest in Politico Magazine.

This Convention was an Eight-Hour-Long Infomercial—And a Pretty Good One

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.

Read the rest in Politico Magazine

How 74-year-old Ed Markey is Stealing the Youth Vote from a Millennial Kennedy

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.

Read the rest in Politico Magazine

What the Lincoln Project Ad Makers Get About Voters (and What Dems Don’t)

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.

Read the rest in Politico Magazine

Chris Cuomo, Stay in Bed

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.

Read the rest in Politico Magazine

Trump Pokes Fun at Himself. Why Do Only Some People See It?

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.

Read the rest in Politico Magazine

What ‘The Bachelorette’ taught my daughter

Hannah Brown and her suitors on the first night of this season’s installment of "The Bachelorette."

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.

Read the rest in the Boston Globe Magazine.

Chasten Buttigieg is winning the 2020 spouse primary

Pete and Chasten

Few would have expected that the early stars of the 2020 race would be the gay millennial mayor of a mid-size Midwestern city and his 29-year-old husband. Through his very presence, Chasten Buttigieg is breaking ground. But at the same time, what’s most unexpected about Chasten is how conventional he is. At a time when campaigns are treading cautiously, and spouses are navigating a new set of gender minefields, Buttigieg seems relaxed, unscripted, free to be himself. And that freedom has turned this historic figure, the first same-sex husband of a major-party presidential candidate, into something surprising: the most traditional political spouse in the field.

Read the rest in Politico Magazine.

The other atrocity in the college admissions scandal

U.S. Attorney for District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling announces indictments in a sweeping college admissions bribery scandal on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Boston. (Steven Senne/AP)

Originally published in WBUR’s Cognoscenti

This is, among many other things, a story of terrible parenting.

That much is clear from reading the federal affidavit outlining “Operation Varsity Blues,” the investigation into a shockingly brazen scheme of college admissions fraud. It’s a window into the world of gold-plated, wood-paneled helicoptering — and the logical extension of a world where you can’t say “no” to a precious child.

Read the rest of the article here.