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The Fatal Flaw in Joe Manchin’s Voting Rights Package

Last week, I criticized West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin for announcing that he would vote against the For the People Act on purely performative grounds. Manchin’s op-ed criticizing the bill did not name a single provision that he opposed; he simply refused to back Democrats’ signature election reform measure because Republicans happened to oppose...

In the Malcolm Archives

Paper TrailIn the fall of 2019, on my first visit to Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library, an exhibition of Janet Malcolm’s writings, curated by Eve Sneider, lined the corridor leading to the rare books and manuscripts room. Perhaps it was serendipity, or perhaps it was fate, but it certainly felt eerie, as Malcolm’s specter loomed large over...

Moving to Janet Malcolm’s America

I started reading Janet Malcolm the year I came to the United States. Encountering her work felt like emerging from ignorance—revelatory and more than a bit humbling. At 23, I was embarrassed not to have heard of her before. If the most quoted parts of The Journalist and the Murderer sounded dimly familiar, it was only in the same way anything well...

Let’s Tax Dead People

President Joe Biden has proposed a tax increase that you may not have heard about. It would make the tax code more progressive without extracting even one cent from the wages of the rich or the poor. Nor would it take from the investor any of the dividends or capital gains that accrue from wealth. Nor would it appropriate any portion of that wealth...

The IRS Could Be a Force for Social Good

On June 10, 2019, John Lewis took to the floor of the House of Representatives to tout a piece of legislation that he and his colleagues, including some Republicans, had worked on for years. It was to be a major legislative achievement, and he wanted the public to know it. “This is not a Republican or a Democratic bill,” Lewis said. “It is an American...

Can the Socialist Mayor Rise Again?

India Walton greets me alone at her campaign office, which is actually just a one-desk room in a co-working space, sparsely decorated but for a few books, stacks of campaign lit, and a whiteboard where people have left each other messages both practical (“I’ll call you at 5”) and motivational (“We will win because we can!”) A few minutes later, she’s...

Meet the Villain of In the Heights: Alexander Hamilton

As a lifelong fan of musical theater, it gives me no pleasure to admit that it’s an art form with often iffy ideological undercurrents—a landscape surely made worse by its fanbase: A 2019 report found that Broadway audiences are 74 percent white and boast average household incomes of $260,000 per year. So anytime genuinely left-of-center lyrics manage...

The Performative Rhetoric of “Allyship”

In the September 1970 issue of the radical feminist magazine off our backs, an anonymous author asked, “Who are our real allies in a revolutionary struggle?” Half a century later, a writer posed a similar question in Marie Claire: “How Can I Become a Better Ally?”That subtle shift in rhetoric, from “allies” to “ally,” has made a difference. Typically,...

The Unequal Distribution of Covid Vaccines Is a Preview of the Coming Climate Apartheid

A week after the G7 patted itself on the back for agreeing charitably to hand out 500 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines (“a drop in the ocean,” as Amnesty International put it), a very different group of leaders will convene virtually on Friday to hash out a more durable way to bring the pandemic to an end. As the climate crisis accelerates, the meeting...

What Made Gilded Age Politics So Acrimonious?

The politics of Gilded Age America has always lent itself to a certain mock-heroic streak in historical storytelling; the name of the era comes down to us, after all, from an 1876 satirical novel by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner. And like that saga of rampant corruption, the clash of big-ticket interests and constituencies amid the rise of industrial...

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