Blue donkey in red bubble, blue house in blue bubble
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In the wake of the 2016 election, journalists and political commentators have been falling all over themselves to report on the plight of the so-called “white working class.” I hate to use the scare quotes, but the term is much less distinctive than it once was. We are all proletarians now: economic instability is keenly felt all over the country, at all levels of society, and not just among white people, either. Recent bestsellers like Arlie Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land and J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy prove that there is a considerable market for books addressing the economic, political, and cultural gaps between city and country, between left and right. The latest of these is Ken Stern’s Republican Like Me: How I Left the Liberal Bubble and Learned to Love the Right.

Stern, the former CEO of NPR and a lifelong Democrat, was inspired to write the book after realizing that while his posh Washington D.C. neighborhood celebrated diversity of all kinds, he didn’t personally know any conservatives or even know anybody who did. He decided to take a year-long trip through red states to better understand the ways of the right. Stern’s approach is well-intentioned but essentially flawed — just because he happens to live in a liberal neighborhood doesn’t mean that he’s the only one living in a bubble. More… “Republican Like Who?”

Matt Hanson lives in Western Mass and writes for The Arts Fuse,  Boston’s online independent arts and culture magazine.  His work has also appeared in The Baffler, The Millions, and 3 Quarks Daily, and other places.  He can usually be found in the nearest available used bookstore.

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Does the rise of nationalist populism in both Europe and North America, illustrated by politicians like Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and others, mean that the Atlantic community now resembles Weimar Germany? Facile comparisons of contemporary Western populists to totalitarian, militarist dictators like Hitler and Mussolini are not only hyperbolic but also misleading. The greatest danger to liberal democracy on both sides of the Atlantic is not its consolidation under neo-fascist dictatorship, but rather its gradual decay into something like the oligarchic regimes that have long existed in many Latin American countries. Fascism? No. Banana republic? Maybe.
More… “Insider Nation v. Outsider Nation”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.

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I’m in love with poet Billy Collins. Do poets make good husbands? If so, how might I woo him? — Jaqi H., Watertown, Massachusetts

Well, many poets haven’t had the best track records as mates, but I think Billy Collins would make a great husband. Unfortunately for you though, he already is one. But do not despair, Jaqi H.!  These six steps will help you cope with your Billy Collins addiction:

Admit you are powerless to Billy Collins. In the presence of Billy Collins (maybe at a poetry reading at a local university where the acoustics are perfect and the wine is plenty), your knees become wobbly as his verses caress the hairs of your inner ear and you need to sit down. Admit that all you will ever need in your life is Billy Collins. “Billy,” you… More…