Tuesday, November 6th, 2018


Totem Polls

America's modern day tribalism will be on full display as voters line up to cast their ballots on a day that looks like it could be marked by massive midterm turnout numbers. The votes will be about candidates, issues, and doctrines. But it will mostly be about us. In Politico Magazine, Michael Grunwald on how everything became a culture war (and why that's something to worry about). "These days, even climate change, infrastructure policy and other domestic issues normally associated with wonky panels at Washington think tanks have been repackaged into cultural-resentment fodder."

+ How tribal have our politics become? People are campaigning against their own family members who are running for office. "Ahead of the midterm elections, a shocking number of political figures' family members have taken the severe step of publicly rebuking their kin. Most notably, in September, six siblings of Representative Paul Gosar ... renounced their brother in a television ad for his opponent." (And I thought it was bad when one of my sisters once skipped an edition of NextDraft...)

+ In a distinctly 2018 irony, as Americans become more tribal, we're making it increasingly difficult for members of actual tribes to vote.

+ The modern culture wars prove everything new is old. Especially racism and antisemitism as a political strategy. WaPo: Republicans attack Jewish candidates across the U.S. with an age-old caricature: Fistfuls of cash. This is why, yesterday, I didn't tell you what to vote for, but I did tell you what to vote against.

+ "At least in the immediate aftermath of 2016, we still asked conventional questions, like, Will Trump attempt to heal the divisions of the Presidential race and reach out to those who didn't vote for him? No matter the outcome, no one will ask that question this year." The New Yorker: The Dark Certainty of the 2018 Midterms.


Stuck in the Midterms With You

There are a lot of races. There is a lot at stake. And America is remarkably fixated on politics. Here's a quick rundown of how to watch tonight's election results. And here are some pages to bookmark for constant updates from Buzzfeed, CNN, and WaPo.

+ As always, this election will be a teachable moment. But mostly what you'll be learning about is geography. NYT: Loaded With Data and Whiz-Bang Effects, Maps Are the Real Stars of Election-Night TV.

+ And (cue Jaws music), yes, the New York Times needle is back. Slate: These Horror-Movie Jump Scares Are Even More Frightening With the NYT Needle.


Referendum Da Dum Dum

All politics is local. That adage is usually true. But perhaps more than any time in recent memory, this election is a referendum on one person. So this is as good a time as any to review this tour de force from the folks at McSweeney's: Lest We Forget The Horrors: A Catalog Of Trump's Worst Cruelties, Collusions, Corruptions, And Crimes. (There is so much to cover, this qualifies as a tour de force just for the typing alone...)


State TV

Back in 2016, there was talk that Donald Trump would start a TV network if he didn't win the election. Well, he ended up getting both the win and his own network. On Monday, Fox News went full State TV as Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro joined a Trump rally and stumped for the president. Even Fox News executives were a little grossed out and issued a statement. "Fox News does not condone any talent participating in campaign events." (I don't condone that usage of the word talent.)

+ For the past two years, we've been wringing our hands about the impact of social media on elections. It's a worthwhile concern to be sure. But the role Fox News has played in damaging our national discourse is far more extensive than all the social networks and Russian hacks put together. "Fox isn't watched by everyone, but for those who do watch, Fox is everything." From The Intercept: Fox News Is Poisoning America. Rupert Murdoch and His Heirs Should Be Shunned.


Toilet Roles

From Bloomberg: How Bill Gates Aims to Save $233 Billion by Reinventing the Toilet: "Holding a beaker of human excreta that, Gates said, contained as many as 200 trillion rotavirus cells, 20 billion Shigella bacteria, and 100,000 parasitic worm eggs, the Microsoft Corp. co-founder explained to a 400-strong crowd that new approaches for sterilizing human waste may help end almost 500,000 infant deaths and save $233 billion annually in costs linked to diarrhea, cholera and other diseases caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene."


Background Info

"Music, even when you are barely aware of it, can be surprisingly powerful. Over recent decades, researchers have found that it can affect how much time we think has passed while waiting in a queue, how co-operative shoppers are with sales staff, and even how sweet or bitter food tastes. One study found that shoppers' preference for French or German wine shifted according to which of the respective countries' traditional music was playing from a nearby set of speakers." The Guardian: Inside the booming business of background music.

+ "As demo vocalists, they shape the sound of pop most directly; their bodies literally generate it. Pop singers often mimic these demo vocalists exactly, and no one notices (unless some enterprising leaker posts the demo to YouTube)." NPR: Sia Is The 21st Century's Most Resilient Songwriter.


Unlevel Playing Field

"The decline of youth sports participation is the sort of phenomenon that seems exquisitely tailored to exacerbate fears about the state of American childhood. One might suspect that the falloff is the result of children gravitating to video games, television, and other electronic distractions that don't require an open field or a court. Perhaps athletics is just another legacy institution that can't compete for attention anymore ... But dig into the numbers, and a more complex, two-track story emerges. Among richer families, youth sports participation is actually rising." Derek Thompson on how expensive travel leagues siphon off talented young athletes from well-off families—and leave everyone else behind.


Perfect Storm

"They measured three types of perfectionism: self-oriented, or a desire to be perfect; socially prescribed, or a desire to live up to others' expectations; and other-oriented, or holding others to unrealistic standards." And they're all going up. The Atlantic's Olga Khazan on the problem with being perfect.


Blind Faith

"I'm half scared, half so excited. But I figure, like the song says, if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere." NYT: A Final Proving Ground for Guide Dogs to the Blind: Midtown Manhattan. (I have two beagles. They'd fit right into the frenetic pace of the big city. It's my living room that proves to be a difficult environment...)


Bottom of the News

On election day in America, there is perhaps no race being more closely watched that Beto v Cruz in Texas. So we found just the right reporter to interview the candidates in the final hours of their campaigns. Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.

+ Before you take that voting booth selfie, you better make sure that it's legal to do so in your state. (And even if it is legal, don't do it...)

+ People have raised over $70,000 to send pizza to voters waiting in line. (It's a complete farce that people have to wait hours in line to cast their votes. You'd think easy access to a polling place would be the one thing people in the world's leading democracy could agree on. Sadly, you'd be wrong.)

+ Idris Elba named People's sexiest man alive. (I once had a cat named Stringer Pell.)