Authoritarianism in the U.S.A., Trump Satire, Congresswoman Maxine Waters: Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing excellent content, but also keeping an eye on other great writing from around the web. This may be a predominantly arts/culture-centric website, but given the immediate gravity of U.S. politics, we’ve been focusing this outward-looking post on indispensable political writing, as well the occasional cultural piece. This week, we have a piece on the American brand of authoritarianism, an interview with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a salty editorial denouncing labor secretary nominee Andy Puzder, and more.

We’re starting out with a bang this week: With her signature cool-headed analysis, Sarah Kendzior — a St. Louis-based journalist who’s studied the rise of authoritarian states — has written yet another sobering article on our current situation, called “It’s Already Happened Here.” This piece, from The Baffler, starts with a rather startling Abraham Lincoln quote in which the former president delivers “an oddly prescient diagnosis of America in 2017” that reminds us “this has always been America.” Kendzior continues:

The specter of American authoritarianism has been waved away in polite circles of opinion with the mantra “It can’t happen here”—to name-check Sinclair Lewis’s political satire of the same year showing that indeed it can. And more to the point, it has happened here—just never so fast and so flagrantly. Americans are used to their leaders cloaking their anti-democratic and inhumane policies under the pretense of patriotism, instead of, like Trump, openly denigrating the country, its citizens, and its laws.

Teen Vogue has an interview with Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California, who began her 27th term as a U.S. Representative in fine fashion — by calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Or, to be more accurate, Waters has stated that she believes the 45th is rapidly steering himself toward Bill Clinton’s fate, after only three weeks in office. Waters has also been very outspoken on Russia’s involvement in the election, an issue that has largely receded from media scrutiny since Trump took office. Waters told Lincoln Blades (a.k.a. the coolest-named journalist on the planet):

[W]hen you get into politics, you’re socialized into the way in how you conduct yourself. We refer to each other as the gentlelady and the gentleman. We use language that has been designed to keep order, and to keep people in line. I don’t subscribe to that. I believe there comes a time when you have to speak truth to power and be honest with the people, and be prepared to confront the kind of evil and criminality and undermining of the Constitution such as I believe this president has done. And if you have to suffer consequences for doing that, so be it. I’m prepared to suffer those consequences.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch — the hometown paper of Andy Puzder, Trump’s pick for labor secretary, and the city’s only remaining print daily — has published a scathing editorial denouncing the nominee and urging the Senate to send him packing. The piece, signed by the editorial board, argues that Puzder would normally never be considered for such a job — except, “Historic standards do not apply in a hyper-partisan era where GOP senators fear losing their jobs if they insist on qualified, conflict-free public servants.” The piece continues:

He is brash, outspoken, misogynistic, combative and uninterested in quarantining himself from his financial interests. Like many of Trump’s nominees — Rick Perry at the Energy Department, Betsy DeVos at Education, Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development — he is almost uniquely unqualified for the duties of the office to which he seeks confirmation.

After Melissa McCarthy surprised viewers with a hilarious take on White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live, the New Republic‘s Jeet Heer writes that comedy may not defeat Trump — but that doesn’t mean it’s useless. Heer surveys a few recent articles on Trump-related satire, and concludes that while jokes won’t bring the man down, they will at the very least help lift the spirits of those who oppose him:

[A] broader debate about the role of political comedy today…since the election has centered around one question: “Do jokes help or hurt Trump?” But this question requires less an answer than a re-framing. To expect comedy to have a decisive political impact is to miss the point of humor. Jokes, even political jokes, aren’t about persuasion, but rather psychological comfort in the face of difficult or painful situations.

Finally, on Tuesday — the same day billionaire donor Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education — the National Magazine Awards announced the winners of this year’s competition, which included a stunning New York Times Magazine article by Nikole-Hannah Jones, called “Worlds Apart” (the online title is slightly different: “Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City”). Published in June, the article combines memoir, deep research, and reporting, as Jones describes the dilemma she and her husband faced when it came time to choose a school for their daughter in New York City:

We each came from working-class roots, fought our way into the middle class and had no family wealth or safety net to fall back on. Faraji believed that our gains were too tenuous to risk putting our child in anything but a top-notch school. And he was right to be worried. In 2014, the Brookings Institution found that black children are particularly vulnerable to downward mobility — nearly seven of 10 black children born into middle-income families don’t maintain that income level as adults. There was no margin for error, and we had to use our relative status to fight to give Najya every advantage. Hadn’t we worked hard, he asked, frustration building in his voice, precisely so that she would not have to go to the types of schools that trapped so many black children?