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

A Member of the Squad Goes Rogue

…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, her history 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.

Read the rest in Politico Magazine.

Turn It Up And Be Mad: Why Angry Songs Make Us Feel Good

Lizzo performs "Truth Hurts" at the BET Awards on Sunday, June 23, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

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.

Read the rest in WBUR’s Cognoscenti.

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.

The Hard Work of the 2020 Instagram Spouse

As social media becomes a critical tool in politics, Instagram is increasingly used as a soft-focus medium to showcase a candidate’s relatability. Even Joe Biden, who is definitively not of the Instagram generation, has a carefully managed feed with 1.3 million followers. His posts, like those of most candidates, have a different voice from his campaign’s Facebook and Twitter presences: less combative, extra-polished, fully promotional. They add a bit of “Here’s why you want to have a beer with me” to “Here’s another look at my pretty campaign logo” and “Here’s a professional video about my climate plan.” It’s all part of the Instagram voice that Spinelli helps her clients achieve: I’m just like you, only a bit better.

Read the rest in Politico Magazine.

How Trump Turned Liberal Comedians Conservative

A glitchy image of Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee and Stephen Colbert

There’s no greater threat to the liberal establishment than Donald Trump. And in the past three years, something about comedy has shifted. In class, University of Delaware communications professor Dannagal Young has her college students diagram late-night jokes and label the incongruities—the hidden arguments that aren’t actually stated in the text. When they come to the May 2018 moment when Samantha Bee, in a rant about immigration on her TBS show “Full Frontal,” called Ivanka Trump a “feckless c—,” the exercise breaks down. The line drew a laugh, but there was nothing to puzzle out. No irony, no distance. She just meant it.

Read the rest in Politico 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.

Is America Ready for a Single President?

Cory Booker

Originally published in POLITICO Magazine.

The American public is fascinated by bachelorhood, and also eager to see single men married off—hence our keen interest in the dating habits of British royals, and the umpteen-thousand hours produced of “The Bachelor.” As much as the boundaries and definitions of marriage have changed—and over the course of the nation’s history, they’ve changed dramatically—matrimony is still seen as the normal state of a responsible adult. And, under most circumstances, we want our presidents to seem normal, and responsible.

Read the rest here.

How Trump Got Bad at Twitter

Donald Trump

Originally published in Politico Magazine.

If you still think of Trump as the tweeter-in-chief, master of the pithy insult and well-placed exclamation point, just visit his feed. The crisp, unpredictable tweets from the start of his presidency have largely become rambling and verbose. His account is weirdly turgid, loaded with ponderous attacks on his perceived enemies and obscure multipart arguments about his legal situation. At other times, it veers as close as Trump has ever sounded to Washingtonesque.

Read the rest here.