Douthat’s Kat Radley Problem

I took the liberty of annotating Ross Douthat’s latest New York Times article entitled, “Clinton’s Samantha Bee Problem” to help clarify a few things. The original text of his article is below, with my annotations in bold footnotes.

Clinton’s Samantha Bee Problem

When the histories of the Trump era are written from exile in Justin Trudeau’s Canada, they will record that it was none other than Jimmy Fallon who brought down the republic.[1]

[1]However, these histories will not be accessible to Americans because Trump will have insulated Internet access and restricted the press from publishing anything negative about him. Don’t feel bad Americans; North Koreans won’t be able to read them either.

Or so you might have thought, at least, listening to[2] the furious liberal reaction to Fallon’s willingness to treat Trump like any other late-night guest last week: kidding around with him, mussing up his combover and steering clear of anything that would convey to late-night television viewers that Trump is actually beyond the pale[3].

[2] I added the word “to” because his original article omitted it. Hey, New York Times, you might want to reconsider letting edit your articles. Their not very good at it.

[3] Let me define this idiom for you. Beyond the pale: outside the bounds of acceptable behavior. Thank God Trump is within the bounds of acceptable behavior. I can’t wait to have my own son and tell people how badly I want to bang him. I’ll wait until he’s 18 of course. I’m not a monster.

But the Democratic Party’s problem in the age of Trump isn’t really Jimmy Fallon. Its[4] problem is Samantha Bee. [5]

[4] Ten points for using the correct “its.”

[5] Targeting Bee rather than any other late night host makes the most sense because she is the first female host of a current events-based late night talk show, and whether America wants to admit it, the unconscious bias against women is incredibly rampant. And no, unconscious bias is not when a man prefers hooking up with unconscious women over conscious ones, but you have to admit, there’s something sexy about a limp-limbed woman. Just ask Brock Turner. He always said a conscious 6 is an unconscious 8.

Not Bee alone, of course,[6] but the entire phenomenon that she embodies: the rapid colonization of new cultural territory by an ascendant social liberalism.

[6] Of course not. Women need men’s help even when they are fucking things up.

The culture industry has always tilted leftward, but the swing toward social liberalism among younger Americans and the simultaneous surge of activist energy on the left have created a new dynamic, in which areas once considered relatively apolitical now have (or are being pushed to have) an overtly left-wing party line.[7]

[7] In my humble 31-year-old opinion, (I know I look 30, thank you), the ideas that are considered “left-wing” tend to help society progress and make us better, and then they aren’t “left-wing’ anymore, but just “the right thing.” For example, things that were once considered “left-wing” that we now accept as universal truths: slavery is wrong, gay people deserve equal rights, Nickelback sucks.

On late-night television, it was once understood that David Lettermanwas beloved by coastal liberals[8] and Jay Leno more of a Middle American taste. [9] But neither man was prone to delivering hectoring monologues in the style of the “Daily Show” alums who[10] now dominate late night. Fallon’s apolitical shtick increasingly makes him an outlier among his peers, many of whom are less comics than propagandists[11] — liberal “explanatory journalists” with laugh lines.[12]

[8] Love you, Dave!

[9] You taste weird, Jay!

[10] Whom. (I’m just kidding. Who(m) the hell knows?)

[11] Maybe these so-called comics are having to take on the role of explaining the news and issues to the public because the actual news is too busy using Twitter accounts as reliable sources and asking us who wore it best. That story is a waste of time because the answer is always going to be Beyonce.

[12] Of course since Samantha Bee is a woman we have to make this about looks. She has just as much a right as any man to have wrinkles and age naturally.

Some of them have better lines than others, and some joke more or hector less. But to flip from Stephen Colbert’s winsome liberalism to Seth Meyers’s class-clown liberalism to Bee’s bluestocking feminism to John Oliver’s and Trevor Noah’s lectures on American benightedness is to enter an echo chamber from which the imagination struggles to escape.[13]

[13] Holy shit. I think we are lucky just to have escaped that sentence! I’m exhausted.

It isn’t just late-night TV. Cultural arenas and institutions that were always liberal are being prodded or dragged further to the left. Awards shows are being pushed to shed their genteel limousine liberalism and embrace the race-gender-sexual identity agenda in full. Colleges and universities are increasingly acting as indoctrinators for that same agenda, shifting their already-lefty consensus under activist pressure.[14]

[14] Wait a minute! Institutions of higher education find it important to embrace this “race-gender-sexual identity agenda,” and all the while Trump leads the polls in uneducated voters? That is so weird! It reminds of this quote I heard in elementary school, “those who learn to read and write were the first to run away.” I think it was referring to early American slavery. Either that or newly literate children reading the calories on the McDonald’s Dollar Menu.

Meanwhile, institutions that were seen as outside or sideways to political debate have been enlisted in the culture war. The tabloid industry gave us the apotheosis[15] of Caitlyn Jenner, and ESPN gave her its Arthur Ashe Award. The N.B.A., N.C.A.A. and the A.C.C. — nobody’s idea of progressive forces, usually — are acting as enforcers on behalf of gay and transgender rights.[16] Jock culture remains relatively reactionary,[17] but even the N.F.L.[18] is having its Black Lives Matters moment, thanks to Colin Kaepernick.

[15] I do laud Douthat for his sophisticated vocabulary. I really do. I taught high school English for six years and kids’ vocabulary these days is like, really bad. Journalists should strive to challenge the average reader to expand their lexicon. Just for fun though, I’ll define apotheosis for you. It means “the highest point in the development of something.” For example, my breasts reached their apotheosis my 4th year of college after I spent a year averaging 17 beers per week…end. My left boob was a solid B, and my right boob flirted with a C cup. Naturally, I wore A cup bras for dramatic effect.

[16] Don’t you just hate it when athletic organizations that usually accept the status quo and ignore the marginalized members of our society start getting involved to help solve the problem? JUST PLAY YOUR SPORTS AND LET US LIBERALS SOLVE RACISM AND SEXISM ON OUR OWN THANK YOU!

[17] I think he meant “rapey.”

[18] Norwegian Federation of Lollipops

For the left, these are clear signs of cultural gains, cultural victory. But the scale and swiftness of those victories have created two distinctive political problems for the Democratic Party.[19]

[19] God damnit! Just when we were going to start the V-I-C-T-O-R- WHY can’t we just have our victories served to us “sans problems.” Half of us are probably allergic anyway.

First, within the liberal tent,[20] they have dramatically raised expectations for just how far left our politics can move, while insulating[21] many liberals from the harsh realities of political disagreement in a sprawling, 300-plus million person republic. Among millennials, especially, there’s a growing constituency for whom right-wing ideas are so alien or triggering,[22] left-wing orthodoxy so pervasive and unquestioned, that supporting a candidate like Hillary Clinton looks like a needless form of compromise.

[20] Probably constructed of two tarps made from recycled, gluten-free hummus, held up by sticks of hope.

[21] Does this insulation contain asbestos? If so, I would like it to be replaced with something organic, and I want rich people to pay for it.

[22] All guns are bad! (Sorry, triggering is a trigger word for me).

Thus Clinton’s peculiar predicament. She has moved further left than any modern Democratic nominee[23], and absorbed the newer left’s Manichaean view of the culture war sufficiently that she finds herself dismissing almost a quarter of the electorate as “irredeemable”[24] before her donors. Yet she still finds herself battling an insurgency on her left flank, and somewhat desperately pitching millennials on her ideological bona fides.

[23] In Clinton’s defense, she’s been listening to a lot of Beyonce lately. “To the left, to the left.”

[24] Which is probably the cast of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and the people who watch it.

At the same time, outside the liberal tent[25], the feeling of being suffocated by the left’s cultural dominance[26] is turning voting Republican into an act of cultural rebellion — which may be one reason the Obama years, so good for liberalism in the culture, have seen sharp G.O.P. gains at every level of the country’s government. [27]

[25] A circus tent?

[26] LGBTQ people getting married and feeling safer does make it hard to breathe. It must be all the dicks they’re sticking in everyone’s mouths. Take the dick out and inhale through the nose! I won’t let anyone be suffocated by the left’s cultural dominance, or a dick on my watch!

[27] If I were a middle-aged white man in the G.O.P. who assumed whites would rule forever, I’d be pissed off by the Obama years, too!

This spirit of political-cultural rebellion is obviously crucial to Trump’s act. As James Parker wrote in The Atlantic, he’s occupying “a space in American politics that is uniquely transgressive, volatile, carnivalesque, and (from a certain angle) punk rock.”[28] (The alt-right-ish columnist Steve Sailer made the punk rock analogy as well.[29]) Like the Sex Pistols,[30] Parker suggests, Trump is out to “upend the culture” — but in this case it’s the culture of institutionalized political correctness[31] and John Oliver explaining the news to you, forever.[32]

[28] James Parker wrote another article in 2010 in which he references its subject being “raised in an atmosphere of punk rock.” That article is about MTV’s hit show Jackass. Conclusion? Parker recognizes a poignant similarity between the Trump campaign… and grown men punching themselves in the nut sack.

[29] Steve Sailer is a 57-year-old white man, and I couldn’t find how old James Parker is. He has no social media presence, so I can only assume he is 92.

[30] (Nothing like the Sex Pistols)

[31] There’s a really big difference between upending the culture of political correctness and just being flat-out offensive. Being uber politically correct is saying “cisgender” instead of “straight,” or “kale” instead of “poop inducer.” Being flat out offensive, which is what Trump is, is the suggestion to ban an entire religion from a country founded on religious freedom, or comparing any comic to Bill Cosby.

[32] You’re right. I’d like him to do a lot more than “explain the news.” AmIright, ladies? (Like when he debunked a cultural and sexist institution like the beauty pageant).

Trump’s extremism also limits his appeal, of course. But if liberals are fortunate to be facing a Johnny Rotten[33] figure in this presidential campaign, they are still having real trouble putting him away … and if he were somewhat less volatile and bigoted and gross, liberalism would be poised to close its era of cultural ascendance by watching all three branches of government pass back into conservative hands.

[33] Ten bucks says Donald Trump thinks Johnny Rotten is that trash can guy from Sesame Street whose purpose is to warn children about the dangers of being poor.

Something like this happened once before: In the 1960s and 1970s[34], the culture shifted decisively leftward, but American voters shifted to the right and answered a cultural revolution with a political Thermidor.[35]

[34] I could have sworn he was going to say World War II.

[35] A nineteenth-century French play set during the French Revolution, not to be confused with Lobster Thermidor, which is a French dish consisting of a creamy mixture of cooked lobster meat, egg yolks, and brandy, stuffed into a lobster shell. I’ve never tried it, but I heard this is Trump’s favorite dish if the Burger King drive-thru is closed.

That Nixon-Reagan rightward shift did not repeal the 1960s or push the counterculture back to a beatnik-hippie fringe. But it did leave liberalism in a curious place throughout the 1980s: atop the commanding heights of culture yet often impotent in Washington, D.C.[36]

[36] Luckily Bill Clinton came along, and the impotence in D.C. was no longer!

By nominating a Trump rather than a Nixon or a Reagan, the Republicans may have saved liberalism from repeating that trajectory. But it remains an advantage for the G.O.P., and a liability for the Democratic Party, that the new cultural orthodoxy is sufficiently stifling to leave many Americans looking to the voting booth as a way to register dissent.[37]

[37] Hey, I get it. Most members of the G.O.P don’t want extreme ideology shoved down their throats. Or a gay penis. And maybe Republicans saved the country from being overrun by liberalism, but Trump is not going to bring good, old-fashioned “Lincoln’s party conservatism” to the White House; he brings religious intolerance, sexism, fear-mongering, and 12 tanning beds.







An Amateur’s Guide to March Madness

bball pic

Being an American citizen has its many privileges. We get to eat French Fries in our cars whenever we want; we can ‘gram pictures of ourselves as teenagers every Thursday; we can make up abbreviations for already made up words (e.g. ‘gram) and no one will think less of us. However, we also have to keep up-to-date with sports, or we risk missing out on intellectual party conversations and “getting” what’s trending on Twitter.

For the most part, I have no problem being a good American. I eat French Fries in my car more often than I sleep in it. I am more than happy to let the world see my painfully embarrassing afro as a thirteen-year-old, but I often struggle keeping up to date on which quarterback stuck his landing during the big match the previous week. (Just kidding. I know it’s always Tom Brady). If you are like me, the words “March Madness” probably strike you with a panic attack, and then immediately remind you of the tea party from Alice in Wonderland. I am here to help. Feel free to use this guide to help you through this difficult season that is the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Some Key Terms Defined[1]:

Box Out – If there’s one sweeping generalization about basketball players that is true, it’s that they loooove their shoes. Some basketball shoes are so nice and expensive, that players hesitate to take them out of the box for fear they’ll get them dirty. They show up to a really important team audition wearing shoes while they are still in the box. Not only does this look ridiculous, but it’s also very impractical for running. There’s at least one player on every team that has to be told by the coach, “Box out! Box out!” which results in the player sadly having to take his (or her) shoes out of the precious cardboard chest in which they came and wear them like a human.

Buckets – College is sponsored by KFC. Therefore, we want players to make as many buckets as possible during a game. I never know when a bucket has been made, but I do know that KFC will give out one family-sized bucket of fried chicken to the poorest person in the stadium for every bucket that is made during the game. KFC has like, a really good marketing department.

Backcourt – If there is a dispute over one of the judge’s calls during the game, the two coaches have to meet in Backcourt to reach a verdict. The judge blows the whistle, and the two coaches meet under the bleachers to discuss their disagreement. No yelling is allowed, and it usually ends with a hug.

Alley-oop – You only need to read this definition if your route home includes walks down dark alleys. This pertains to that moment when you are walking home alone (from a basketball game, obviously) and you turn down an alley, and as soon as you turn the corner you see a homeless man squatting next to the dumpster relieving himself, but if you turn around now, it’s obvious that you are turning around just because you don’t want to walk by the homeless man, so you keep walking like everything is cool in order to protect his feelings, but in your head you’re like, “Oops. I should have walked by the alley first to survey the scene before taking that corner so abruptly.”

H-O-R-S-E – This is just a misspelling of the word “whores,” and I think we all know what whores have to do with college basketball.

Nothin’ But Net – It’s a well-known fact that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s[2] father was a modest fisherman, which is not an easy life. Each night, his father would come home from work with his catch from the day to feed their family of eight. Kareem, who was always hungry from a full day of school and an intense basketball rehearsal, would have to go to bed with an empty stomach on the nights when his father would come home, shoulders stooped, and have to look into his children’s eyes when they asked what he caught that day to nourish them. He would down-troddenly admit to them, “Nothin’ but net…”

Deuce – Please refer to the above definition of “alley-oop.” Remember when I mentioned that homeless man relieving himself? Well think about it: what rhymes with “oop?”

March Madness – The nickname for the NCAA Basketball Tournament, which ultimately picks the World’s Best College. When you become the World’s Best College, you get to do really cool things like sell bumper stickers and make a woman your president (but just for show). Sometimes you even teach people things, but let’s not waste time on minor details.

NCAA – An organization that was created to help African-Americans go to college if they can play basketball. Personally, I think African-Americans should be able to go to college even if they don’t play basketball, but what do I know? I’m just a woman college president.

Seed – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s family eventually started planting these to grow their food after the commercial fishermen came in and depleted the entire supply of North Atlantic Herring.

Unsportsmanlike Foul – The best way to weaken your opponent’s defense is to rip a foul fart while he’s close to you. They key to completing this maneuver successfully is to make sure your fart is silent, but deadly. If you break wind audibly and the judge calls you on it, you are then penalized with an unsportsmanlike foul. The punishment for this offense is to be pantsed[3] by the player whom you tried to crop dust originally. The NCAA is currently campaigning to completely remove the unsportsmanlike foul from gameplay, but human rights advocates are fighting to protect it.

Wrapping Up

While this list is extensive, it is by no means all-inclusive, but it should be enough to get you started. You should now be able to fool any sports junkie into thinking that you know your stuff. Hell, you could probably even add “sports” to your interests on and not be lying. Throw some of these terms into conversation while you’re at the ESPN Zone watching “The Big Game.” And most important of all: be sure to always refer to any game as “The Big Game.”

[1] These terms were alphabetized by a college athlete.

[2] I only know this name because he once made a guest appearance on an episode of Full House in which he helped Uncle Jesse find his sweet spot.

[3] When you pull a person’s pants down in front of a crowd of people, most commonly found in high school locker rooms.