🇺🇸 history is made.

on the agenda this week: wildflowers, upside ice-cream & the next trump.

📖 reading time: 5m 35s.

hi :) happy monday.

can you feel that positivity in the air? i can.

it’s important to keep in mind the following:

trump was incompetent at his brand of authoritarianism, and he lost. but this isn't a triumph: the democrats lost almost everything else.

make no mistake, about what's coming: the next trumpist, in 2024, will be talented, competent and not easy to beat.

- zeynep tufekci

i hope you’re keeping well, as always.

tag me on instagram or follow me on twitter if you enjoy this week's brain drain.

a special thank you to my paid subscribers: i appreciate the support.

👂 earworm: listen to maxime.

📚 word of the week:


the act of tarrying. lingering. delay.

after much tarriance, much debate, / the good gods leave them to their fate.
susan coolidge, the legend of kintu, 1880

🧠 brain candy:

🐕 after four years of no dog in the white house, champ and major biden will be moving in. major will be the first ever rescue dog to be first canine!

💡 on any average *day* in the last 11 years there were 314,770 people who got access to electricity for the first time in their lives.

🍦 to promote their blizzard ice cream, "so cold and creamy that it can be served upside down", dairy queen built a whole shop upside down.

🐋 a dutch metro driver's train smashed through a barrier but was stopped from plummeting to the ground by a sculpture of a whale called, improbably, “saved by the whale's tail.”

🚶‍♂️ the curious case of a nameless hiker and the case the internet couldn’t crack. “mostly harmless” (as he’s come to be named) seemed to have followed, to near perfection, the hiker mantra of “leave no trace.”

🤪 mildly humorous:

💡 longer reads:

🇺🇸 history is made.

from the earliest days of her childhood, kamala harris was taught that the road to racial justice was long.

she spoke often on the campaign trail of those who had come before her, of her parents, immigrants drawn to the civil rights struggle in the united states — and of the ancestors who had paved the way.

as she took the stage in texas shortly before the election, ms. harris spoke of being singular in her role but not solitary.

“yes, sister, sometimes we may be the only one that looks like us walking in that room,” she told a largely black audience in fort worth. “but the thing we all know is we never walk in those rooms alone — we are all in that room together.”

with her ascension to the vice presidency, ms. harris will become the first woman and first woman of color to hold that office, a milestone for a nation in upheaval, grappling with a damaging history of racial injustice exposed, yet again, in a divisive election. ms. harris, 56, embodies the future of a country that is growing more racially diverse, even if the person voters picked for the top of the ticket is a 77-year-old white man.

that she has risen higher in the country’s leadership than any woman ever has underscores the extraordinary arc of her political career. a former san francisco district attorney, she was elected as the first black woman to serve as california’s attorney general. when she was elected a united states senator in 2016, she became only the second black woman in the chamber’s history.

almost immediately, she made a name for herself in washington with her withering prosecutorial style in senate hearings, grilling her adversaries in high-stakes moments that at times went viral.

yet what also distinguished her was her personal biography: the daughter of a jamaican father and indian mother, she was steeped in racial justice issues from her early years in oakland and berkeley, calif., and wrote in her memoir of memories of the chants, shouts and “sea of legs moving about” at protests. she recalled hearing shirley chisholm, the first black woman to mount a national campaign for president, speak in 1971 at a black cultural center in berkeley that she frequented as a young girl. “talk about strength!” she wrote.

👉 read more via the york times.

🇺🇸 the next trump.

now that joe biden has won the presidency, we can expect debates over whether donald trump was an aberration (“not who we are!”) or another instantiation of america’s pathologies and sins. one can reasonably make a case for his deep-rootedness in american traditions, while also noticing the anomalies: the early-morning tweeting, the fondness for mixing personal and government business, the obsession with ratings befitting a reality-tv star—the one job he was good at.

from an international perspective, though, trump is just one more example of the many populists on the right who have risen to power around the world: narendra modi in india, jair bolsonaro in brazil, viktor orbán in hungary, vladimir putin in russia, jarosław kaczyński in poland, and recep tayyip erdoğan in turkey, my home country. these people win elections but subvert democratic norms: by criminalizing dissent, suppressing or demonizing the media, harassing the opposition, and deploying extra-legal mechanisms whenever possible (putin’s opponents have a penchant for meeting tragic accidents). orbán proudly uses the phrase illiberal democracy to describe the populism practiced by these men; trump has many similarities to them, both rhetorically and policy-wise.

he campaigned like they did, too, railing against the particular form of globalization that dominates this era and brings benefit to many, but disproportionately to the wealthy, leaving behind large numbers of people, especially in wealthier countries. he relied on the traditional herrenvolk idea of ethnonationalist populism: supporting a kind of welfare state, but only for the “right” people rather than the undeserving others (the immigrants, the minorities) who allegedly usurp those benefits. he channeled and fueled the widespread mistrust of many centrist-liberal democratic institutions (the press, most notably) —just like the other populists. and so on.

but there’s one key difference between trump and everyone else on that list. the others are all talented politicians who win elections again and again.

in contrast, trump is a reality-tv star who stumbled his way into an ongoing realignment in american politics, aided by a series of events peculiar to 2016 that were fortunate for him: the democrats chose a polarizing nominee who didn’t have the requisite political touch that can come from surviving tough elections; social media was, by that point, deeply entrenched in the country’s politics, but its corrosive effects were largely unchecked; multiple players—such as then–fbi director james comey—took consequential actions fueled by their misplaced confidence in hillary clinton’s win; and trump’s rivals in the republican primaries underestimated him. he drew a royal flush.

it’s not that he is completely without talent. his rallies effectively let him bond with his base, and test out various messages with the crowd that he would then amplify everywhere. he has an intuitive understanding of the power of attention, and he played the traditional media like a fiddle—they benefited from his antics, which they boosted. he also clearly sensed the political moment in 2016, and managed to navigate his way into the presidency, though that probably had more to do with instinct than with deep planning.

👉 read more via the atlantic.

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