Atlantic readers from across the political spectrum discuss the results of the U.S. presidential election and what it means for the country. (The Atlantic’s overall stance on Donald Trump remains firm.) To join in, especially if you’re a Trump voter, please send us a note: email@example.com.
Last week, we put out a survey to readers asking about Thanksgiving plans, and over 400 of you responded, telling us how far you’d be traveling to see friends and family and how you’d be getting there. We compiled the results and Andrew made this cool graphic:
As you can see, we also asked how you were feeling. In the aftermath of an ugly presidential season and a shocking upset of an election, Americans may find their family gatherings more fraught than ever this year—and in this era of a deep political divide between the city and the countryside, that may be especially true for the people who are traveling far to see loved ones.
When we asked, generally, what emotions you were feeling, most of you didn’t bring up politics. But about 14 percent of you did. For some, that’s the reason they look forward to having family close. As one reader puts it, “I want to hug the ones I love following this dreadful election.”
Most others, though, anticipate discord. “I dread the spectre of Trump looming over our table,” a reader sighs. Another traveling home to Michigan expects to be alone in grieving Trump’s victory, and one going to rural Alabama looks ahead to “further exhaustion: over-worked and underpaid to go ‘home’ to a different kind of work—tactfully avoiding political discourse.” Another reader is feeling “anxiety because of the election,” but for more complicated reasons than Clinton vs. Trump: “I’m queer and my (Clinton-supporting) family isn’t totally down with that and I’m not ready for the discussions around the dinner table.”
A tiny number of people—2 percent of everyone who responded—said they actually canceled plans because of the election. (That’s not counting the people who said they were newly relieved to be staying home, or those who were dreading Trump talk so much they wished they could skip the family dinner.) One reader: “I want my family to know that their political choices have personal impacts.” Another explains, “We can’t face family that voted for Trump.” And for a reader with a conservative Republican father, a schism over politics was a long time coming:
We’ve had our disagreements but we could always be civil until the last five years. I’m spending Thanksgiving alone because my father (a Trump supporter) sees me as the enemy and “does not like me anymore.”
But among your responses is also, as one reader puts it, “the usual family drama.” There is stress over traffic and cooking and in-laws and meeting a boyfriend’s parents and, for a gay woman, introducing a girlfriend to extended family for the first time. Some look ahead to bittersweet celebrations—the first family gathering since a grandfather’s funeral, the first Thanksgiving without a mother, perhaps the last with a sister in hospice. This reader is nervous: “First time I will not be drinking while surrounded by people that love to drink.” Another says:
Thanksgiving has traditionally been a high-stress time for my family, filled with high expectations and obligations. This year is the first without such feelings, so I’m anticipating a chill and relaxing day.
It’s encouraging, in the dreary-as-usual November of an unusually divided America, to see that just over half of you are purely happy about seeing your loved ones for Thanksgiving. (This includes, of course, the person who simply wrote “Turkey and gravy”—agreed. Enough said.) And in a more poignant way, it’s encouraging to see all these mixed feelings all mixed together. We’re a country of mixtures and contradictions, and we are families of the same. And in the briefest descriptions of your feelings headed into the holiday, there’s a spectrum to match. Excited. Resigned, you wrote. Sadness. Peace, fulfillment. Anxious. Joy. Joy.
“Adele, please release a new album” was all one reader had to say when we asked what you were feeling in the lead-up to Thanksgiving, with so many people bracing themselves for political clashes following a particularly toxic presidential election. The Adele fan might have had in mind this SNL skit from last year:
I am the lone Democrat among six siblings ranging in ages 60-75. We gathered at our sister’s weekend cottage, a New Orleans shotgun salvaged from N. Claiborne Avenue and moved to a tongue of land on Bayou Lacombe. Spouses, children, and grandchildren made the crowd large. I steered clear of the sprawling back-porch addition, where the conversations, using outside voices, were laced with declarations about Hillary and Blue Lives Matter.
Inside was more temperate. In past years, my siblings would take me on and I’d jump in with rebuttals, mine from print, theirs from TV and talk radio. This year, I think my sadness was visible to them—not a time for jousting, as it came naturally to me to lower my head and eyes whenever in the vicinity of their political conversations. We did not engage.
Ellen Pober Rittberg and her family also tacitly decided on non-engagement:
Several members of my immediate family had a somewhat heated discussion/debate/what-have-you several days prior to the day of the holiday, and so they/we agreed without agreeing we wouldn’t talk (presidential) politics at table. It helped that there were 12 different dishes and lots of guests (24) so the majority of time guests alternately chewed and head-nodded (while chewing). That the head-nods were not all that emphatic indicated that our informal non-agreement was not breached.
Is strategic avoidance of politics enough to get us all through the holidays—or through the next four years? And how long will it be before the tension gets to be too much?
I spoke on the phone with another reader, Donna, who had written in to say she’d lost a longtime friend over Thanksgiving weekend when an email exchange about Trump’s election got heated. Donna now feels that “the friendship lasted possibly only because I bit my tongue for 30 years.” The following has been condensed and edited from our conversation:
We were friends for 30 years and he had always been very right-wing. But we had a lot of things in common. He and I share a love of the arts and humanities. Even there, his opinion would slip in at times, in ways that I thought were unfair. I would just listen and maybe once in a while say something very general.
Ironically, the breaking point came over a question of unity: The friend had described a national zeitgeist in favor of Trump, says Donna, and she was so irked by the apparent assumption that most people agreed with him that “I guess I couldn’t fake it anymore.” She wrote back to him saying she was upset and didn’t agree. In his reply, he said he didn’t want to know her anymore.
I asked Donna whether she regretted staying quiet for so long to preserve the friendship, and she wasn’t sure:
He feels so strongly about what he believes, and I don’t think that anybody could change him much. Had I spoken up, I don’t think I would have changed his mind.
After he wrote this long email, I really had a hard time getting to sleep, I was so upset. I had to take a tranquilizer. But last night [after he ended the friendship] I felt a lot calmer, maybe because I finally told him.
Have you ever lost a friend over politics—or found a way to repair a relationship that politics broke? Do you have close friends with whom you disagree on fundamental issues? We’d like to hear your stories: firstname.lastname@example.org. I, for one, could certainly use the advice.
But we’ll end on a more cheerful holiday note with Bill and his wife, two liberal Democrats in Tucson who were apprehensive about an invitation from their conservative neighbors, “who couldn’t be further from us on the political scale of things—or so we thought”:
The third couple they invited, also neighbors, are also Republicans. We are all friends, play a little golf together and share a meal occasionally, but we have not spoken since the summer, as we were away at our summer home and arrived a few days before Turkey Day. We were nervous, but we accepted when the host, over the backyard fence, casually mentioned that they had banned all news from their home and are enjoying getting caught up on repeats on the Home Channel.
The afternoon was lovely. No one brought up the election. At one point, as we were discussing in general terms the difficulty in finding anyplace to put our savings and earn anything, the host said he thought the market was going to crumble soon anyway since the President-elect would probably be indicted and impeached soon. His grace at the dinner table was lovely and asked that the healing in the country start right now. We all said a big Amen.
Later, as we discussed health issues, as we tend to do at our boomer ages, the other Republican mentioned that at least we would soon have a single-payer system, e.g. Medicare for All, since the Republicans are going to screw up the current system that seems to be helping an awful lot of Americans and a single-payer system will be the only solution to fix it … a lot of “about time” chiming in around the table. Another shocker.
Hillary’s name never came up. I was all prepared to use my current approach, “I hope HE is successful and helps all Americans.” Never had to.
So, we were pleasantly surprised to say the least, and we thanked all our neighbors for a graceful dinner and their “act of kindness” toward their distressed/depressed Democratic friends.
In the wake of the shocking results of November’s election, readers in Notes had a robust discussion titled, “Will Trump Voters and Clinton Voters Ever Relate?” One of the most revealing and contentious entries came from a Trump supporter who “voted for the middle finger, the wrecking ball.” He began by countering some common stereotypes about Trump voters:
I have a Masters degree. My kids go to public school with kids of all races, colors, and creeds. Our neighborhood has immigrant families, mixed-race families, minorities, and same-sex couples. Our sports teams are multi-cultural, diverse, and play beautifully together, on and off the field. I have neither the time, energy, or room in my heart for hatred, bigotry, or racism.
His was a protest vote:
I am tired of the machine rolling over us—all of us. The Clinton machine, the Republican machine, the big media, investment banking, hedge fund carrying interest, corporatist, lobbying, influence peddling, getting elected and immediately begin fundraising for the next election machine—they can all kiss my ass.
Maybe Trump won’t do a thing to change or fix any of it. Hillary definitely would not have changed any of it.
Many readers disagreed here. Another one, Susan, emailed this week asking, “Could we have an update from the guy who ‘voted for the middle finger, the wrecking ball’? I’d be very interested to know what he thinks of the first two months of President Trump.”
I actually wondered the same thing in early February, when I emailed the wrecking ball reader to see if his views on Trump has shifted during the presidential transition and his first few weeks in office. Here’s the reader’s verdict on February 9 (followed by a reply to Susan’s request):
It’s too early to tell, really—kind of like calling the Falcons to win after their first touchdown, right? I think Trump is still too combative and his messaging is awful at times—a lot of the time—but so far he is the guy (ass?) he’s been through the entire run. Trump thinks of himself as an executive in the most stringent application of the word—the buck stops here, the buck begins here, the buck is always here—but he’ll that learn running a company and the country are not the same thing, not matter how much I sometimes like the idea of someone “running the government like a business.”
I wish Trump had what we call down here—the land of obesity, fireworks, and Flannery O’Connor-inspired realities—a “pull-back guy.”
See, we love our college football down in the buckle of the Bible Belt. We love to watch our Clemson Tiger defensive coordinator, Brent Venables, go crazy on the sidelines. To handle him, they have to get a designated staffer be the “pull-back guy”—grabbing Venables around his britches and pulling him back off of the field so he doesn’t draw a penalty.
Trump also needs a pull-back guy—I should be hired, by the way—to help him pause before hitting send on Twitter, to take ten deep breaths in front of any microphone, etc. (Ol’ Slick Willy from Arkansas needed a pull-back guy too, especially for that body part that always got him in trouble, you know?)
Seriously though, I think the all noise over the executive orders and the appointments and the nominees have been shrill. I have tuned out, I’ll admit it. Elizabeth Warren reading Coretta Scott King makes her a warrior princess? The same woman who ridiculously claimed Native American heritage? Really? I’m supposed to pay attention to that? Nah, we’re still celebrating our win over ‘Bama!
Time will tell with Trump, but it hasn’t told yet. I am not ready to start a fire in Berkeley because they invited a guest speaker I don’t like, but I’m not ready to cast a ballot for Trump’s second term yet either. Damn man, I know we are all for instant gratification these days, but holy shit, let’s all get over the election hangover before we start impeaching, re-electing, calling the damn game against Tommy Brady with most of the game still to play. Let things play out, let those elected to govern try to govern—it’s harder than it looks.
The loyal opposition is important and needs to be robust and constructive and play a role, but screaming drowns out conversations—and conversations are still what we need more of in this country.
He continued the conversation yesterday—and it seems like he’s slowly turning against Trump:
My take on the president about 60 days in? Not much: He is the same blowhard, thin-skinned, egomaniacal maniac I voted for in November. Do I regret my vote? Not yet. Might I down the road? Sure.
The foreign Russian influence in our democratic process troubles me, and if it’s determined to be true, I will not stand for it. Can’t have it. Still smells eerily like Whitewater to me right now, though. The vast left-wing conspiracy maybe!
Throwing out Obamacare? I’m all for it if a workable alternative replaces it. I wouldn’t support getting rid of it just to get rid of it. Just like so much of it all, Obamacare has some things I like and some things I do not. Make it better, call it whatever you want, let’s just make the problem less of a problem for less people and move forward.
Less regulation? I’m for less regulation. I’m not John Stossel yet, but in general I do think we have a million stupid regulations we could get rid of and be better off for it.
Sanctuary cities? We already solved the nullification crisis some 150 years ago, didn’t we? No state, not even California or New York, can stand on solid ground defying the federal government on matters of immigration. Weed, maybe, immigration and enforcement, no. I’m ok with strangling the shit out of sanctuary cities.
Expanding military spending? I’ll defer on that one; I have a brother in the Army, so I’ll follow his lead. I want them equipped, capable, and ready— but not fighting other people’s wars. Can we afford it? I don’t know.
His Supreme Court nominee? Seems like a man of the law, serious and studied. I have no problem with his nomination. The Court should always be around 5-4. It keeps us all in the same sane lane.
Overall, Trump has not been the wrecking ball or the middle finger I anticipated. He’s a dumpster fire in a lot of ways, but mostly harmlessly so, in my opinion.
Should he comment on an NFL player not standing during the anthem? No, it is his right and he should protect that even if he hates it. Should he tweet about Ivanka’s fashion brand? No. Should he claim wiretapping without proving it? No.
It’s all ridiculous reality TV that we should expect from Trump—and frankly expect from ourselves. Like it or not, that is who we are. We are not “all Berliners” anymore; we are all Kardashians, and our president proves it—as does our collective “we” every day. We know who is in the Sweet 16 or what happened on The Walking Dead, but we don’t know shit about Mike Pence or the governor of our own state.
I’m guilty, I promise—hell, this email proves it. My opinion on Trump so far is as worthless as anyone’s, maybe more so than most. I wake up every day, take kids to school, work my ass off for 10 hours a day, get to baseball or soccer practice, listen to the news on the radio, help with homework, pay some bills, do my taxes, change out a light bulb, do some laundry, seduce the wife and go to bed. Repeat. Repeat. Oh shit, it’s the weekend? Soccer tournament, cut the grass, wash the car, plant some flowers, go to church, check Monday’s work calendar, get back to it.
Notice that I left out bitching and complaining, committing a crime, tweeting, screwing my neighbor’s wife, expecting something for nothing, asking for a handout, stealing someone else’s pension, polluting the land, harming any animals, swearing to destroy another country, beating up someone who looks different from me, worrying about who is in the stall next to me at Target ...
So I voted for Kanye’s better half. He hasn’t jumped the shark just yet. Give him time.
History’s best marathoner has broken a mythical time barrier. But it doesn’t count as a world record.
Updated at 2:15 p.m. ET on October 13, 2019.
Early yesterday morning, in a misty park in Vienna, Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon in less than two hours. His time, 1:59:40, is the fastest any runner has ever covered 26.2 miles. Kipchoge carved two minutes off his own world record and became the first marathoner to break the two-hour barrier.
At the event, branded the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, the performance was heralded as a radical, historic leap, his “Neil Armstrong moment,” as one announcer said. Indeed, Kipchoge himself—a soft-spoken 34-year-old Kenyan who dulls the pain of distance running by smiling mid-competition—has repeatedly equated his feat to reaching the moon. That comparison is audacious on the scale of human achievement, but in the galaxy of running, it might actually be an understatement. Running’s original moon landing, the sub-four-minute mile, took place back in 1954. Yesterday, Kipchoge launched running to Mars.
Our unpredictable and overburdened schedules are taking a dire toll on American society.
Just under a century ago, the Soviet Union embarked on one of the strangest attempts to reshape the common calendar that has ever been undertaken. As Joseph Stalin raced to turn an agricultural backwater into an industrialized nation, his government downsized the week from seven to five days. Saturday and Sunday were abolished.
In place of the weekend, a new system of respite was introduced in 1929. The government divided workers into five groups, and assigned each to a different day off. On any given day, four-fifths of the proletariat would show up to their factories and work while the other fifth rested. Each laborer received a colored slip of paper—yellow, orange, red, purple, or green—that signified his or her group. The staggered schedule was known as nepreryvka, or the “continuous workweek,” since production never stopped.
The tech industry is producing a rising din. Our bodies can’t adapt.
Karthic Thallikar first noticed the noise sometime in late 2014, back when he still enjoyed taking walks around his neighborhood.
He’d been living with his wife and two kids in the Brittany Heights subdivision in Chandler, Arizona, for two years by then, in a taupe two-story house that Thallikar had fallen in love with on his first visit. The double-height ceilings made it seem airy and expansive; there was a playground around the corner; and the neighbors were friendly, educated people who worked in auto finance or at Intel or at the local high school. Thallikar loved that he could stand in the driveway, look out past a hayfield and the desert scrub of Gila River Indian land, and see the jagged pink outlines of the Estrella Mountains. Until recently, the area around Brittany Heights had been mostly farmland, and there remained a patchwork of alfalfa fields alongside open ranges scruffy with mesquite and coyotes.
What the Amazon founder and CEO wants for his empire and himself, and what that means for the rest of us.
Where in the pantheon of American commercial titans does Jeffrey Bezos belong? Andrew Carnegie’s hearths forged the steel that became the skeleton of the railroad and the city. John D. Rockefeller refined 90 percent of American oil, which supplied the pre-electric nation with light. Bill Gates created a program that was considered a prerequisite for turning on a computer.
At 55, Bezos has never dominated a major market as thoroughly as any of these forebears, and while he is presently the richest man on the planet, he has less wealth than Gates did at his zenith. Yet Rockefeller largely contented himself with oil wells, pump stations, and railcars; Gates’s fortune depended on an operating system. The scope of the empire the founder and CEO of Amazon has built is wider. Indeed, it is without precedent in the long history of American capitalism.
I studied over 100 dual-income couples and found that the ones who managed to create partnerships that felt truly equal had a few things in common.
Although the number of dual-career couples isrising, equal partnerships have not necessarily become the norm. Despite much talk about splitting housework, there is a surprising lack of guidance on how exactly to address the deeper challenges that these couples face, such as when and where to relocate, how to split parenting responsibilities, or how to honor both partners’ ambitions. I have spent the past five years studying more than 100 working couples around the world to learn how they combine two careers and a relationship. Most of the couples I interviewed aspired to split their responsibilities at home and at work equally, but few managed to really do so. For many, resentment and guilt festered, and equality became a mirage.
The largest crowdfunding site in the world puts up a mirror to who we are and what matters most to us. Try not to look away.
In June 2016, Chauncy Black rode the bus from his home in South Memphis to one of the city’s whiter, wealthier neighborhoods. The 16-year-old helped his grandmother pay the bills by doing odd jobs for neighbors, and on this afternoon he was headed for the rich-person Kroger supermarket to try something new: approaching shoppers who’d just bought hundreds of dollars’ worth of groceries and offering to take their bags to the car for a few bucks. It had seemed like a good idea, but in practice it was dispiriting. People ignored him; they wouldn’t even look him in the eye.
Sometime after 9 p.m., Chauncy filled a box with a dozen donuts and approached a tall white man in his 30s. In exchange for buying him this “dinner,” Chauncy told the guy, he’d carry his groceries. Matt White bought Chauncy the donuts—and cereal and peanut butter and toothbrushes and frozen vegetables, too.
Congress and the White House have a tense relationship, and future administrations might well choose to build on rather than repudiate the Trump example of how to respond to a hostile Congress.
More than once since the Democrats captured the House of Representatives in the midterm elections of 2018, President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to express his irritation at “presidentialharassment!” Undoubtedly, he is not the first occupant of the Oval Office to feel that way, but his response has been different. The Trump administration has tended to adopt a posture of maximal presidential obstruction of congressional investigations into the conduct of the executive branch and the individuals surrounding it. That defiance has culminated—for the moment—in White House Counsel Pat Cipollone’s letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declaring that the administration will not cooperate in any way with an impeachment inquiry that it regards as “illegitimate” and “constitutionally invalid.”
The commander in chief is impulsive, disdains expertise, and gets his intelligence briefings from Fox News. What does this mean for those on the front lines?
For most of the past two decades, American troops have been deployed all over the world—to about 150 countries. During that time, hundreds of thousands of young men and women have experienced combat, and a generation of officers have come of age dealing with the practical realities of war. They possess a deep well of knowledge and experience. For the past three years, these highly trained professionals have been commanded by Donald Trump.
To get a sense of what serving Trump has been like, I interviewed officers up and down the ranks, as well as several present and former civilian Pentagon employees. Among the officers I spoke with were four of the highest ranks—three or four stars—all recently retired. All but one served Trump directly; the other left the service shortly before Trump was inaugurated.
Donald Trump’s narcissism makes it impossible for him to carry out the duties of the presidency in the way the Constitution requires.
On a third-down play last season, the Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith stood in shotgun formation, five yards behind the line of scrimmage. As he called his signals, a Houston Texans cornerback, Kareem Jackson, suddenly sprinted forward from a position four yards behind the defensive line.
Eight months after scandals rocked their party, Democrats are on the cusp of turning Virginia into an all-blue state.
RICHMOND, Va.—It’s a bit too on the nose: The prettiest street in Virginia’s capital city happens to be the one with all the monuments to men who fought for slavery, a boulevard lined with mansions on either side and, in the middle, towering tributes to the likes of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson.
The Lee statue is centered in a traffic circle, which means drivers literally have to go around this reminder of a disgraced era to get where they’re going. That is also an apt metaphor for the Democratic Party in Virginia, which is on the cusp of capturing full control of the state’s government for the first time in more than a quarter century. Democrats already occupy Virginia’s three most powerful statewide offices and both U.S. Senate seats, and in elections across the state next month, they need to flip just two seats in each chamber of the General Assembly to gain outright majorities.