Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Opinion | How Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce could save democracy

Opinion | How Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce could save democracy

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If anyone tries to tell you that the cadre of House Republicans holding up government funding don’t want a government shutdown, set to begin this weekend, please refer them to Dana Milbank’s helpful compilation of their recent quotes:

“I’m not afraid of shutdowns.”

“Most of the American people won’t even miss it.”

“It’s time to call a halt to spending, and if the government shuts down, let’s shut it down.”

The putative leader of their party, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), genuinely doesn’t want the United States to shutter, fearful that the ill effects of a stoppage would rebound on the GOP.

What he fears more, though, is his party’s far-right faction, and Dana writes that he has caved to its members every time he has needed to wriggle out of disaster.

But this time, what they want is disaster; there really aren’t even demands to cave to. Hugh Hewitt calls it a “shutdown about nothing,” and Jen Rubin in her latest subscriber-only newsletter calls the MAGA crowd’s nihilism a new low.

Anyway, we know who these troublemakers are … but who are the people electing them?

Almost none of us, it turns out. Karen Tumulty writes that the House’s clowns largely come from noncompetitive congressional districts where the die is cast in the primary election. And did you vote in your district’s party primary? (Okay, as a recipient of this newsletter, maybe you did, but not many do!)

“We don’t have a House that represents voters,” Karen writes, “because most voters don’t participate.”

She has a few ideas for how to fix that, but in the meantime, we’re getting the government we vote for. And on the eve of shutdown, that means choices about what stays funded and what doesn’t.

To the U.S. service member who faces work without pay: Don’t worry — the impeachment inquiry into President Biden will continue full steam ahead.

A trailblazer in the Senate

Longtime Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) died Thursday at 90, and biographer Jerry Roberts writes that her death is more than the end of an era; it is the “passing of an eon.”

His tribute traces Feinstein’s often-overlooked early years in politics, back to her start on a women’s prison parole board. He stops at her Senate victory in 1992, dubbed the “Year of the Woman.” In between? A whole lot of sexism.

When Feinstein was coming up, newspapers described her as “a lady politico,” “a pretty expert on crime,” even “the little lady … occupying the limelight.” Her many tributes over the coming days will reveal a rather different understanding of her — and of the world.

Even more meaningful tributes, Roberts writes, are the many powerful women — Barbara Boxer, Kamala D. Harris, Nancy Pelosi (and that’s just from Feinstein’s neck of the woods) — who followed her path into a new political world.

Chaser: Feinstein’s long career was, for some … maybe too long. Here’s Kathleen Parker’s column from a few months ago worrying about America’s gerontocracy.

From the Editorial Board’s push to redouble efforts in the fight to eradicate polio, which the world has come so close to doing so many times — “so tantalizing and yet exasperating.”

A new inflection point has arrived because of an old version of the polio vaccine (no longer given in the United States), which uses a weakened live virus. If a community has a low vaccination rate, that strain can genetically revert in the environment to a dangerous form. Of 674 cases of paralysis from the year ending July 31, 658 were from vaccine-derived forms.

But a safer vaccine is out now with a far lower risk of seeding actual cases, and the board lays out how best to use it to protect the world’s kids.

Chaser: Another staunch advocate for children, our Alyssa Rosenberg, just won journalism’s Gerald Loeb Award (woohoo!) for commentary for her coverage of last year’s baby formula shortage. Read her takeaway piece here.

At last, more Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce content … it’s been waiting for you.

Perched in the center of America’s heartthrobbiest Venn diagram, contributing columnist Rick Reilly provides a primer on the pop star for the football hero’s fans, and vice versa — helpful, given that previously, “the only place Swifties and NFL maniacs might cross paths would be at the DMV.”

It’s a union the whole country can celebrate. Well, almost. Rick says if anyone should be worried about the godlike couple he calls K-Tay, it’s former president Donald J. Trump.

  • Have we forgotten the horrors of Trump’s child separations at the border? Catherine Rampell writes that some voters seem ready for more.
  • Journalist Robert Costa reports that Trump-skeptical Republicans are looking for a Hail Mary alternative in Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
  • We’re not there quite yet, Fareed Zakaria writes, but a peace deal between the Saudis and Israelis could anchor the entire Middle East.

It’s a goodbye. It’s a haiku. It’s … The Bye-Ku.

If everyone’s essential,

Plus! A Friday bye-ku (Fri-ku!) from reader Laurence D.:

Wild garb from Travis Kelce

Have your own newsy haiku? Email it to me, along with any questions/comments/ambiguities. Have a great weekend!

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