The Atlantic Daily: A Crisis of Representative Democracy

What exactly do France's “yellow-vest” protesters want? And when do they want it? Plus: The "hidden curriculum" of higher ed, plus-size fashion, and more

Philippe Wojazer / Reuters

What We’re Following

France’s “yellow-vest” protests continued onto their fourth month, with protestors torching banks and businesses in Paris over the weekend. The spate of violence coincided with the end of a series of town-hall meetings that President Emmanuel Macron convened across the country to regain the trust of locals who view him as a member of a smug, out-of-touch elite. But how should he respond to such a diffuse movement, which doesn’t just oppose the technocratic tinkering of policy, but also the very institutions of representative democracy? Macron is trying to extend the town meetings and has expressed a willingness to put some issues to a national referendum, but even he has limited room to maneuver.

New Zealand seems to be taking immediate policy action after the mass shooting in Christchurch. The attacks on two mosques left at least 50 dead—one in every 500 Muslims in the country were killed or wounded on Friday. New Zealand lawmakers are now set to discuss changes to the country’s gun laws that could outlaw the type of semiautomatic weapon used in the massacre. Though gun ownership is common in the country, gun deaths aren’t—Friday marked the country’s first mass shooting in more than two decades; over the same time period, there have been about 90 in the United States.

+ The white-supremacist, Islamophobic ideology of the alleged Christchurch shooter raises a possibility that some Americans are willfully ignoring, argues Talal Ansari—that the same kinds of attacks could happen in the U.S.

Faced with the Church’s metastasizing child sex-abuse crisis, what are Catholic parents choosing to do? In the U.S., the Catholic Church is losing more members than any other religion, and there’s some evidence that this exodus is tied to the decades-long crisis. For those who remain, some parents are rethinking their kids’ involvement in the church community by preventing them from being alone at church, or just being more selective about the people they interact with: “I am very, very cautious about leaving my children alone with anyone.”

Evening Reads

Elite Colleges Constantly Tell Low-Income Students That They Do Not Belong

(Charles Krupa / AP)

50 people were charged last week as part of an extensive scheme in which rich parents bought their kids’ way into elite schools. These students were accepted under fraudulent means, yet low-income students at selective colleges are the ones who receive daily reminders that they don’t belong, writes Clint Smith.

... three out of four colleges close their dining halls during spring break. Many low-income students cannot afford to leave campus, much less go on vacation for break, and as a result take extraordinary measures to make sure they have enough to eat. Some students ration their food, skipping meals to make a limited supply last the entire break. Some students go to food pantries, leaving the campus of a school that might have a billion-dollar endowment to stand in line for a can of beans.

Read the rest

A Sea Change in Plus-Size Fashion

(Edward Berthelot / Getty)

The fashion industry has so far kept plus-size women at arm’s length, but a new clothing line from the brand Anthropologie could change that.

Consumer choices aren’t the be-all and end-all of social change, but how people dress has a meaningful impact on their life in a way that’s often dismissed along with the fashion industry’s frivolity. At its best, fashion is fun. It’s a way to give visual form to your identity and tell people a little about yourself. But fashion, at its corporate core, is also about the maintenance of social hierarchies. The companies that dominate American malls and e-commerce help decide which bodies get to be perceived as professional or capable or sexy.

→ Read the rest

Dear Therapist

Every Monday, Lori Gottlieb answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. This week, an anonymous reader writes in:

My best friend is currently in a romantic and sexual relationship with a 50-year-old professor at our university. I’m extremely worried, since I suspect the professor is emotionally manipulating her so he can sexually exploit her.

Over the summer, my friend starting working as a nanny for the professor and his wife. After three days on the job, he told her that he “fell in love with her at first sight” and suggested that she was his soulmate. Since this confession, they've been dating and having sex.

→ Read the rest, and Lori’s response. Have a question? Email Lori anytime at

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(Illustration: Araki Koman)

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