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This Week In ‘What Now’

All the exclusive stuff that our Steward subscribers got this week.

Sam Grasso

Happy Friday! This post is about the biggest thing of the week: Discourse Blog’s premium newsletter, What Now!

If you need reminding: What Now is our extra-special, extra-good newsletter that we send out to our Steward tier members and literally nobody else in the entire universe. Our Stewards get three editions per week filled to the brim with 100 percent original content, including:

—Exclusive interviews with people you will want to read an interview with

—Our Group Chat mailbag feature where we answer your questions

—Our take on some of the news we couldn’t get to on the website

—Recommendations, bad tweets, goss, anything really that catches our fancy

—Rafi’s much-loved, highly-coveted “Man, What the Hell?” weekly news roundup, which now lives in What Now.

That is so much! And it’s really good if we say so ourselves. And we do it because we are determined to give our paying subscribers even more great material as a reward for their support.

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Still not convinced? OK, here’s a taste of what our Stewards got to read this week.

On Monday, Paul Blest spoke to David Roth, contributing editor at Defector and one of the best Trump analysts of the last five years, about the former president’s sorry end:

It seemed like when Trump first became president there were an endless number of ways that it could end. Are you surprised that this is the way it’s ending?

I think that I’m shocked every day but not quite surprised. The moment to moment unfolding of it is worse and dumber than I think I let myself believe it could be. It’s not like I thought there would be an orderly or dignified transition, but I didn’t think it would necessarily involve the Capitol being overrun by putsch guys and Q people.

I knew it would be bad and that [Trump] would make it worse. That’s the fundamental thing about him that’s always true, and the surprising stuff is how he and either people make it even worse than that.

One of the themes you hit on in the piece you wrote for Defector following the Capitol riot is that ultimately Trump’s election can be attributed to the failures of the government, and that in the absence of a functional state, people are going to find their own stories to believe. Are you seeing any indications that the people who will assume power—the Biden administration, the Democratic Congress, the terrified Republicans remaining after this—do you see them understanding this and intending to fix it in any way? 

It’s easy for me and other people to fixate on all the ways they Democrat it up and the ways they find to make shit hard, the $1,400 and $2,000 and all of that. The fundamental difference is that Democrats believe in this very hedged and ostentatiously bipartisan and compromise forward way of governing—but they do believe in a way of governing. I don’t think it’s sufficient to the challenges of the moment, but the alternative is the way the Republicans govern, which is open graft and state violence and these weird taunts and stunts. It’s less nihilistic, I think, and if there’s a saving grace, that’s what it is. 

I’ve been kind of astonished by the fact that this trauma of being overrun, being forced into a fucking safe room—I would have thought that of all the things that might have an impact on how these people see their jobs, that was a hard one to miss the point. They would have killed them. I’m struck by Barry Moore, this Alabama congressman who has that kind of American Athletic Conference football coach in the 1990s vibe, white hair, a little manic. He was out there basically saying the same shit that the more famous reactionary types say, and I kept thinking: “Do you think they wouldn’t have hanged you? They don’t know who you are.” 

On Wednesday, Paul answered reader questions, like this one:

CookieMom asks: Is it too early to ask about challengers to Dianne Feinstein in the primary?

Definitely not. I’m not totally convinced Feinstein is going to run again even though she’s filed the paperwork. Four years is a long time when you’re currently 87 years old, and I think her reputation is much worse with normie Democrats post-Hug. Alex Padilla immediately coming out for Medicare for All and a Green New Deal is also instructive about where the party is at now. This was a state Bernie won handily in the primary, and I think Feinstein is going to be just too out of step with the way the state is leaning by the time 2024 rolls around.

As for potential challengers or successors, I think Katie Porter is near the top of my list. She’s over the House leadership’s bullshit and if 2022 is bad enough she could lose her seat anyway. Ro Khanna could do it but I think he’s too much of an institutionalist to challenge Feinstein. Kevin De León already ran against Feinstein once and now he’s on the Los Angeles City Council, so he could make another run, too. Karen Bass and Barbara Lee were mentioned as potential replacements for Harris but Lee will be 78 and Bass will be 71 by the time 2024 hits, so they might decide to just ride it out in the House. 

In the center, I think Adam Schiff and San Francisco Mayor London Breed are going to get a lot of support from the Resistance crowd, but Breed is the favorite for me if she runs. She’s got mainstream Democratic politics, she’s doing the job Feinstein had before she was elected to the Senate, and she was reportedly under consideration to replace Harris and then was vocally pissed off at the Padilla pick. Most importantly, Breed is pretty bad at her current job, which is always a plus if you’re looking for a promotion in Democratic politics. 

At the risk of sounding too galaxy brain—if Feinstein does run, it might actually be a better opportunity for the left because the centrist heavy hitters would be more inclined to defer to Feinstein rather than pull a Joe Kennedy. And I think it’s a lot easier for Porter or Bass to beat a 91-year-old Feinstein than London Breed in 2024. But who knows!

Paul also wrote about a very stupid piece of journalism that pissed him off, and recommended a podcast he’s been hooked on. News you can use!

On Friday, Rafi dove into the week’s most brain-smushing news and came back with wildness like this:

That’s not reich
Can we all agree that when the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial feels compelled to beg visitors not to sled down its mass gravesite, something, somewhere, has gone terribly wrong?

Per the Buchenwald Memorial’s Facebook page:

#Tobogganing and skiing are fun. And a beautiful winter landscape like currently in #Buchenwald attracts outdoors. Nevertheless, we would like to ask you to show respect for the victims and especially not toboggan or ski near or even on the graves on the bell tower.

Let’s hope the sort of person who searches hashtags like “#Tobogganing” and “#Buchenwald” gets the message.

And there is way more we could not fit into this one blog. Here’s the button again! Click it, and subscribe to our Steward tier, and you’ll get What Now in your inbox on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Happy weekend!