Washington, D.C. (December 22, 2015)—American politics are at a precipice as 2016 shapes up to be a pivotal year. In their respective cover stories for the double January/February issue of The Atlantic, David Frum and Peter Beinart take stock of the two dominant parties and the changing dynamics setting their agendas. Frum’s focus is “The Great Republican Revolt”: how the GOP’s plans for a dynastic restoration in 2016 instead triggered an internal class war, and how party elites can regain control. In “America’s Lurch to the Left,” Beinart asserts that, regardless of who wins the 2016 election, the next president will be more liberal than his or her party’s predecessor. Through the lens of the past two presidents, Beinart explains why the country is on an ideological trajectory leftward.
Plus: Candida Moss and Joel Baden investigate why (and how) the wealthy owners of Hobby Lobby have quickly acquired one of the largest collections of biblical antiquities; David Epstein gets firsthand accounts from DEA agents who took down Mexico’s most vicious cartel, which consequently made way for Joaquin “Chapo” Guzmán to take over most of the drug trafficking into the U.S.; and Erika Christakis writes about the preschool trend that’s crushing kids.
The January/February issue of The Atlantic is now available online—with key pieces summarized below:
On the Cover:
“The Great Republican Revolt”: Middle-class Americans are pissed off. This huge swath of voters deeply mistrust every institution in American society—even the political party they typically vote for—and now they’re rebelling against the power of organized money by upending politics in ways that may reverberate far beyond 2016. If Mitt Romney’s failed bid for the White House wasn’t a clear sign, then Donald Trump’s shocking ascendancy should be: Conservative Classic (the ideology subscribed to by the party’s mega-donors, Fox News elders, and top operatives) is no longer going to cut it. In his cover story, Atlantic senior editor David Frum outlines how the GOP’s plans for a dynastic restoration instead triggered an internal class war. He asserts that the party’s elites gravely misinterpreted and ignored the demands of its growing Tea Party base, and offers four ways to reconcile their interests with those of the rank and file. Read more.
“Why America Is Moving Left”: In the late 1960s and ’70s, amid left-wing militancy and racial strife, a liberal era ended. Today, amid left-wing militancy and racial strife, a liberal era is only just beginning. Contributing editor Peter Beinart writes that America on the whole is on the move to the ideological left. If Bush was responsible for the liberal infrastructure that helped elect Obama, Obama has now inadvertently contributed to the creation of two movements—Occupy and Black Lives Matter—dedicated to the proposition that even the liberalism he espouses is not left-wing enough. What has changed? There is enormous popular support for liberal policy shifts—from health care to the economy to immigration to LGBT rights—and this is shaping the response from Democratic elites and the candidates vying for the Oval Office. Beinart argues that an era of liberal dominance will endure regardless of which party wins the White House: Any Republican capable of winning the office would almost certainly govern to the left of his or her GOP predecessors. Read more.
Features and Essay:
“Can Hobby Lobby Buy the Bible?”: The billionaire evangelical owners of Hobby Lobby have taken up an expensive hobby of their own: quickly amassing one of the largest private collections of biblical antiquities in the world for the forthcoming Museum of the Bible (a massive project in Washington, D.C., that they are privately funding). But the startling pace of acquisition (some 40,000 objects in just six years) of biblical manuscripts, Torah scrolls, Dead Sea Scrolls, and cuneiform texts has sparked the attention of antiquities experts and federal authorities alike, who question the somewhat blurry nature and potentially violent backstory of the artifacts. Divinity scholars Joel Baden and Candida Moss write that the family of David Green has a specific and narrow set of religious motivations for the museum, with its stated vision “to inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible.” They write that “the Greens have potentially figured out a way to make one story of the Bible the story of the Bible.” Read more.
“Unfinished Business”: Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán may be the world’s most notorious drug-cartel leader, but what’s little known about his rise to power is his cooperation with Drug Enforcement Administration agents. Using information provided by El Chapo’s attorney, the DEA was able to remove his chief rivals—the leaders of a vicious cartel known as the Arellano Felix Organization—allowing El Chapo to take over most of the drug trafficking into the United States. In an article by David Epstein of ProPublica, the DEA agents who took out the Arellanos talk about their decades-long pursuit. Speaking on the record for the first time, they detail paying huge sums of taxpayer dollars to low-level murderers for information on the cartel’s top leaders, and the case’s infuriating aftermath. This is the never-before-told story of how El Chapo rose to power, and the murky, often unsatisfying business of the War on Drugs. Read more.
Essay: “The Long History of Leading From Behind”: Our fascination with Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger hardly needs explaining. Combining “ambitious statesmanship with jaw-dropping weirdness,” the duo is the subject of a constant stream of new books as fresh material emerges. Through the lens of some of the latest books on Nixon and Kissinger, Stephen Sestanovich explores how the pair’s effort to fix an overextended foreign policy was more like Obama’s than you might think. Read more.
Education: “How the New Preschool Is Crushing Kids”: Preschools today aren’t what they used to be. Higher expectations are being placed on the smallest of students, breeding more competition and increased pressure. This academic rigor at an early age is causing preschoolers to do worse, not better. As education expert Erika Christakis observes, now that kindergarten serves as a gatekeeper, not a welcome mat, to elementary school, concerns about school preparedness kick in earlier and earlier and unreasonable expectations are being directed at 5- and 6-year-olds. Read more.
Study of Studies: “Curses!”: Taboo though it may still be, cursing can be persuasive, build solidarity and boost morale, and even increase pain thresholds. The benefits of a foul mouth are not without risks, as Stephanie Hayes points out: Habitual swearers are shown to experience less pain relief and are perceived by co-workers as incompetent in formal meetings. Read more.
Technology: “The Future of Pets”: Pampered pets are being treated to air-conditioned doghouses, specially brewed craft beer, and video games. William Brennan explores the future of our four-legged friends, from lovable robots and enhanced canine communications, to genetically engineered dinosaur chickens and beagles with muscular physiques to rival Schwarzenegger. Read more.
Sketch: “The Poor Man’s Plutocrat”: “A guy like me—a very successful capitalist, somebody who knows all the rich people—is the best face for the message of reforming capitalism, right?” Seattle-based tech entrepreneur Nick Hanauer is on a mission to fundamentally change the public debate over economics. His theories are not exactly mainstream, so can he succeed in convincing rich people that it’s in their interest to raise the minimum wage? Molly Ball has this month’s Sketch. Read more.
From the Culture File:
Omnivore: “Marc Maron’s Magnificent Cry for Help”: The success of comedian Marc Maron’s garage podcast, WTF, is rooted in his earlier failure and despair. As James Parker writes in his column, “The secret to WTF is that Maron is a recovering monologuist: a hectoring, aggressive comedian and one-way verbalizer who has turned himself—through humiliation and self-examination—into a rather exquisite instrument of reception.” Parker delves into Maron’s world and explores why, in pop culture, he represents the “Happy Failure, or what Walker Percy called the Ex-Suicide.” Read more.
Books: “School for Scandal”: Three years after his blockbuster essay revealing widespread instances of sexual abuse at the elite Horace Mann School, author Amos Kamil returns to the subject in a new book, Great Is the Truth, part memoir and part exploration of what happened after the publication of his essay. Caitlin Flanagan has the review. Read more.
This month’s Big Question asks: “What is the greatest collaboration of all time?” Opposites attract, great minds think alike, two heads are better than one. However you phrase it, society has been defined by great collaborations. Writers, business leaders, and historians weigh in on the collaborations that made history.
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