The Political Scene | The New Yorker
About The Political Scene | The New Yorker
Join The New Yorker’s writers and editors for reporting, insight, and analysis of the most pressing political issues of our time. On Mondays, David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, presents conversations and feature stories about current events. On Wednesdays, the senior editor Tyler Foggatt goes deep on a consequential political story via far-reaching interviews with staff writers and outside experts. And, on Fridays, the staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos discuss the latest developments in Washington and beyond, offering an encompassing understanding of this moment in American politics.
Reverberations of the global “war on terror”—launched by the Bush Administration following the attacks of September 11, 2001—have rippled throughout the world, taking hundreds of thousands of lives and costing trillions of U.S. dollars. This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, conducted on the false pretext that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The New Yorker staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos all spent time writing and reporting on the Iraq War and its aftermath—including from within Iraq. In our weekly roundtable, they look at the profound consequences of the war and how it has impacted today’s politics—through, for example, the rise of Donald Trump, debates over America’s role in the war in Ukraine, and widespread distrust of experts and the mainstream media. We are living in a world the Iraq War created, and Glasser, Mayer, and Osnos explain how.
Masha Gessen has long written about Russia, and recently the war in Ukraine. But Gessen also has a deep background reporting on L.G.B.T.Q. rights. A dual citizen of Russia and the U.S., Gessen fled Russia when they were targeted by government repression of L.GB.T. people. Some of the same rhetoric that Vladimir Putin used is now appearing in bills that aim to criminalize transitioning. “All of these bills are about signalling, and what they’re signalling is the essence of past-oriented politics,” Gessen told David Remnick. “A message that says, ‘We are going to return you to a time when you were comfortable, when things weren’t scary … when you didn’t fear that your kid was going to come home from school and tell you that they’re trans.’ … Promising to take that anxiety away is truly powerful.” Gessen looks at the rapid escalation of laws in the United States that ban medical treatment for trans youth, and aspects of trans identity. “When I see that transgender care … for kids … is already illegal in some states,” Gessen says, “and for adults is likely to become illegal in some states, I know that my testosterone in New York is probably not as safe as I think it is.” Gessen also discusses how the embattled political climate and clear dangers for trans people make nuanced conversations difficult. For instance, Gessen feels that at least some of Dave Chappelle’s jokes about trans people could be seen as sophisticated, “next-level trans accepting.” Gessen also discusses the recent backlash against mainstream media outlets for coverage of issues like detransitioning. Detransitioning has received too much of a focus, Gessen says, and focussing on it plays into a narrative that transitioning young should be discouraged. Yet the possibility of regret on the part of trans people shouldn’t necessarily be denied; better, Gessen said, to accept that regret may accompany any major life change. “We normalize regret in all other areas of life,” Gessen told Remnick. “Kids and their parents, especially teen-agers, make a huge number of decisions that have lifelong implications.”
We’re pleased to announce that “In The Dark,” the acclaimed investigative podcast from American Public Media, is joining The New Yorker and Condé Nast Entertainment. In its first two seasons, “In The Dark,” hosted by the reporter Madeleine Baran, has taken a close look at the criminal-justice system in America. The first season examined the abduction and murder, in 1989, of eleven-year-old Jacob Wetterling, and exposed devastating failures on the part of law enforcement. The second season focussed on Curtis Flowers, a Black man from Winona, Mississippi, who was tried six times for the same crime. When the show’s reporters began looking into the case, Flowers was on death row. After their reporting, the Supreme Court reversed Flowers’s conviction. Today, he is a free man. A third season of “In The Dark,” which will be the show’s most ambitious one yet, is on its way. David Remnick recently sat down with Baran and the show’s managing producer, Samara Freemark, to talk about the remarkable first two seasons of the show, and what to expect in the future. To listen to the entirety of the “In The Dark” catalogue, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
James Sweet, a professor of African history and the former president of the American Historical Association, wrote an essay last year that sparked a significant clash in the world of academia about the role of politics in history and vice versa. He argued that historians have become compromised by politics—that they begin not with the evidence but with the contemporary social-justice concern that they want to speak to, in order to go viral on Twitter. This discussion may seem niche, but it is in dialogue with a national one as politicians such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis vow to remove all traces of “wokeness” from school curricula and exert control over how history is understood. Emma Green joins Tyler Foggatt to discuss her piece “The Right Side of History,” about Sweet’s essay and how historians should respond to the current political moment.
Well before launching the horrifying campaign against Ukraine a year ago, Vladimir Putin had been undermining Russia as well: normalizing corruption on a massive scale, and suppressing dissent and democracy. One of the darkest moments on that trajectory was the poisoning of the opposition leader Alexey Navalny with the nerve agent novichok. Navalny and a team of investigators had illustrated the corruption of Putin and his circle in startling detail, and Navalny began travelling the country to launch a bid for the Presidency. “Every time when I heard Navalny giving an interview, I don’t think there was one interview where he wasn’t asked, ‘How come you’re still alive? How come they still haven’t they killed you?,’ ” recalls the Russian activist Maria Pevchikh, the head of investigations and media for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. “And Navalny is rolling his eyes saying, ‘I don’t know, I’m tired of this question, stop asking. I don’t know why I’m still alive and why they haven’t tried to assassinate me.’ ” Pevchikh was travelling with Navalny when he was poisoned, and helped uncover the involvement of the F.S.B. security services. After surviving the assassination and recuperating abroad, Navalny returned to Russia only to be arrested and then detained in a penal colony. “I think Putin wants him to suffer a lot and then die in prison,” Pevchikh tells David Remnick. Still, she maintains hope. “The situation is so chaotic, specifically because of the war,” she says. “Is the likelihood of Navalny being released when the war ends high? I think it is almost certain.” Pevchikh also served as an executive producer of the documentary “Navalny,” which is nominated for an Academy Award.
The Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit against Fox News stems from the 2020 election and Donald Trump’s refusal to accept defeat. At stake is nearly $1.6 billion in damages. Filings released in the case contain a trove of e-mails and text messages from Fox hosts and executives. The documents reveal that many of the top decision-makers at the company didn’t seem to believe what their own network was saying about the 2020 election. Fox’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, admitted as much, in a deposition released this week. In our weekly roundtable, the New Yorker staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos look at what the filings tell us about how Fox News operates, the current state of Republican politics, and the 2024 election.
In November, Open AI introduced ChatGPT, a large language model that can generate text that gives the impression of human intelligence, spontaneity, and surprise. Users of ChatGPT have described it as a revolutionary technology that will change every aspect of how we interact with text and with one another. Joshua Rothman, the ideas editor of newyorker.com, joins Tyler Foggatt to talk about the many ways that ChatGPT may be deployed in the realm of politics—from campaigning and lobbying to governance. American political life has already been profoundly altered by the Internet, and the effects of ChatGPT, Rothman says, could be even more profound.
As the COVID-19 pandemic approaches its fourth year, we can begin to gain some clarity on which countries, and which U.S. states, had the best outcomes over time. In a conversation with David Remnick, Dhruv Khullar, a contributing writer and a practicing physician in New York, explains some of the key factors. Robust testing was key for public-health authorities to make good decisions, unsurprisingly. What also seems clear from a distance, Khullar says, is that social cohesion was a decisive underlying condition. This helps explain why the United States did poorly in its pandemic response, despite a technologically advanced health-care system. Peer pressure, in other words, trumped mandates. Khullar also speaks to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about how misinformation and political polarization inhibit our country’s efforts on public health.
This week, Joe Biden visited Kyiv to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion, and promised more American support for Ukraine. Although the United States has approved tens of billions of dollars of aid for Ukraine, largely with bipartisan support, the war is increasingly a focus in U.S. domestic politics, with some congressional Republicans and the Florida governor Ron DeSantis raising objections. The staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos gather for their weekly conversation, discussing how the war has upended expectations and may also upend American politics, as the far right and far left appear to be coming together in opposition to U.S. support for Ukraine.
In the past fifty years, a movement has formed to unite native and aboriginal peoples around the world under one umbrella term: Indigenous. But “indigeneity” is a slippery concept. Some groups qualify because they were the first people in their nation; some qualify even though they weren’t. Some have lost sovereignty over their land; some have regained it. As tribes face a variety of political crises, does this diverse global coalition create solidarity, or does it flatten complex problems? Manvir Singh, a writer and anthropology research fellow, raises these questions in an essay in this week’s New Yorker, “It’s Time to Rethink the Idea of the ‘Indigenous.’ ” He joins Tyler Foggatt to discuss the trade-offs of embracing a complex identity label.
In the year since Russia’s invasion, Ukrainians have shown incredible fortitude on the battlefield. Yet an end to the conflict seems nowhere in sight. “Putin’s strategy could be defined as ‘I can’t have it—nobody can have it.’ And, sadly, that’s where the tragedy is right now,” Stephen Kotkin, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and a scholar of Russian history, tells David Remnick. “Ukraine is winning in the sense that [it] didn’t allow Russia to take that whole country. But it’s losing in the sense that its country is being destroyed.” Kotkin says that the standards for a victory laid out by President Volodymyr Zelensky set an impossibly high bar, and that Ukraine—however distasteful the prospect—may be forced to cut its losses. He suggests it could accept its loss of control over some of its territory while aiming to secure expedited accession to the European Union, and still consider this a victory. Remnick also speaks with Sevgil Musaieva, the thirty-five-year-old editor-in-chief of Ukrainska Pravda, an online publication based in Kyiv, about the toll that the war is taking on her and her peers. “We have to destroy the Soviet Empire and the ghosts of the Soviet Empire, and this is the goal of our generation,” Musaieva says. “People of my generation, they don’t have family. They don’t have kids. They just dedicate their lives—the best years of their lives—to country.” Kotkin says that the standards for a victory laid out by President Volodymyr Zelensky set an impossibly high bar, and that Ukraine—however distasteful the prospect—may be forced to cut its losses. He suggests it might need to accept its loss of control over some of its territory while aiming to secure expedited accession to the European Union, and still consider this a victory.
The California senator Dianne Feinstein announced her retirement this week. First elected in 1992, she became one of the most powerful senators in the chamber and was often spoken of as a possible Presidential contender, although she never ran. Also this week, Nikki Haley announced her bid to challenge Donald Trump for the Republican Presidential nomination. In Democratic circles, there have been new reports of hand-wringing over Vice-President Kamala Harris’s political prospects. That got the staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos thinking about 1992—the Year of the Woman, as it was known—and about what has and hasn’t changed for women in politics in the three decades since.
More than forty thousand people are dead after back-to-back earthquakes in Turkey and Syria last week. It’s a new level of disaster in a region that has been pummelled by violence and terrorism. As a Syrian refugee in Turkey told The New Yorker, “We’ve had eleven years of war in Syria . . . . But what happened in eleven years there happened in forty seconds here.” Meanwhile, a mysterious tale of espionage has been unfolding. After a Chinese spy balloon was seen over Montana, the United States identified several more floating bodies in its airspace. Are they proliferating, or have they been there for far longer than we realize? Ben Taub, a New Yorker staff writer, has reported extensively from the Turkish-Syrian border, but his most recent piece for the magazine was about a man who travelled around the world in a balloon. He joins Tyler Foggatt to unravel two of the biggest stories in the news.
Thirty-four years ago, the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a fatwa calling for the assassination of the novelist Salman Rushdie, whose book “The Satanic Verses” Khomeini declared blasphemous. It caused a worldwide uproar. Rushdie lived in hiding in London for a decade before moving to New York, where he began to let his guard down. “I had come to feel that it was a very long time ago and, and that the world moves on,” he tells David Remnick. “That’s what I had agreed with myself was the case. And then it wasn’t.” In August of last year, a man named Hadi Matar attacked Rushdie onstage before a public event, stabbing him about a dozen times. Rushdie barely survived. Now, in his first interview since the assassination attempt, Rushdie discusses the long shadow of the fatwa; his recovery from extensive injuries; and his writing. It was “just a piece of fortune, given what happened,” that Rushdie had finished work on a new novel, “Victory City,” weeks before the attack. The book is being published this week. “I’ve always thought that my books are more interesting than my life,” he remarks. “Unfortunately, the world appears to disagree.” David Remnick’s Profile of Rushdie appears in the February 13th & 20th issue of The New Yorker.
President Biden gave a boisterous second State of the Union address earlier this week, sparring with Republicans over Social Security and Medicare. Designed to advance the President’s agenda, a State of the Union address is always overstuffed. But there were several hot-button issues that Biden hardly discussed, including abortion rights, the United States’ relationship with China, and the war in Ukraine. The staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos gather for their weekly conversation and consider what barely got a mention, and what that tells us about the current balance of power in Washington and the 2024 campaign.
This week, the Democratic Party upended its primary schedule for 2024. Instead of the Iowa caucuses, South Carolina will now go first, giving more deciding power to Black voters. Is this an attempt to realign the Democratic Party’s priorities—or a token of gratitude for the state that pushed Biden to the Presidency in 2020? Benjamin Wallace-Wells, a New Yorker staff writer and reporter who has spent a lot of time in Iowa, joins Tyler Foggatt to discuss the influence of the early primaries, and the political calculations that went into changing them.
Forty years ago, Chuck D showed listeners how exciting, radical, and unpredictable hip-hop could be. His song “Fight the Power” became a protest anthem for a generation, and a Greek chorus in Spike Lee’s film “Do the Right Thing.” The Public Enemy front man talks with the staff writer Kelefa Sanneh about his life in music. “I wanted to curate, present, navigate, teach, and lead the hip-hop art, making it something that people would revere,” he says. Now, at sixty-two, Chuck D is an elder statesman of his genre, and also a critic of it and some of its more commercial impulses. His latest project is a four-part documentary, “Fight the Power: How Hip-Hop Changed the World,” which is airing now on PBS. “I’ve been to one hundred sixteen countries over thirty-eight years, so I’ve seen the changes,” he says. “People have made their way to me to say, ‘Chuck, this is what this art form has meant to me,’ in all continents except for Antarctica.”
The Republican Nikki Haley is widely expected to announce a Presidential run later this month. As a former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina governor, Haley brings strong credentials to a sparse Republican field. The defeated former President Donald Trump is making his third bid for the White House. Governor Ron DeSantis, of Florida, is expected to run, but is so far waiting in the wings. Mikes Pence and Pompeo, Trump’s former Vice-President and Secretary of State, respectively, are also rumored to be contemplating bids. What can these nascent campaigns tell us about the state of the G.O.P.? The staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos gather for their weekly conversation to explore the 2024 race for the Republican nomination, and what it might take to dislodge Trump as the front-runner.
Last Thursday, the Memphis Police Department announced that it was firing five police officers who beat a man named Tyre Nichols to death during a traffic stop. Shortly afterward, all five officers were jailed and charged with murder. Then the police department released body-camera and surveillance-camera footage of the incident. In the days that followed, the footage, and the question of whether or not to watch it, became the object of public preoccupation, superseding the violence it captured. Doreen St. Félix is a staff writer at The New Yorker. She joins Tyler Foggatt to discuss police-brutality videos as cultural objects—and the police as a storytelling apparatus.
For years, many on the right have been lambasting a certain kind of progressive sensibility denoted with the term “political correctness”—endless fodder for Rush Limbaugh and others in the nineteen-nineties. But those semi-comic tirades were nothing compared with the serious political fight against “woke.” Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, for example, recently signed a so-called Stop Woke Act into law, and made the issue the center of his midterm victory speech. In Washington, there has been talk in the House of forming an “anti-woke caucus.” “I think ‘woke’ is a very interesting term right now, because I think it’s an unusable word—although it is used all the time—because it doesn’t actually mean anything,” the linguist and lexicographer Tony Thorne, the author of “Dictionary of Contemporary Slang,” tells David Remnick. “The references to ‘woke’ before 2016, 2017, 2018, were kind of straightforward. It means ‘socially aware,’ ‘empathetic,’ ” Thorne says. “Then the right, the conservative right, seizes hold of this word,” to heap blame on it for everything from deadly mass shootings to lower military recruitment.
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