Only when it comes to college football do we believe that the deaths of a girlfriend and grandmother will spur a 21-year-old to lead his team to victory, and accept that a 22-year-old sprained his ankles from leaping off a three-story balcony to rescue a drowning nephew. The NFL may be played on Sundays, but college football is religion, with each team steeped in its own obscure mores, traditions, and believers.
When the start of World War One is discussed in history class, it is typically portrayed as having happened in the manner of a regrettable and complicated automobile accident. An assassination of a semi-obscure middle-European aristocrat by a genuinely obscure extremist, a complicated web of alliances, militarist movements, and untalented politicians, and naïveté about the nature of the coming conflict: no one to blame here, really, except insofar as everyone was to blame.
We’ve all read it a thousand times: Republicans are not popular with Hispanic voters. Beyond that broad statement, though, there’s a rich story to be told of how and why Republicans fail with this increasingly important demographic. Mike Gonzalez of the Heritage Foundation is out with a new book, A Race For The Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans, which attempts to tell that story—and to show how Republicans might win Hispanics back.
“The last refuge of a social-scientific scoundrel is to call for more research,” quipped Robert Putnam near the end of his seminal 1995 essay “Bowling Alone.” Yet that is what he proceeded to do, and his fellow scoundrels have obliged. The latest round of research comes from Marc Dunkelman, whose book, The Vanishing Neighbor: The Transformation of American Community, is a valuable contribution to our understanding of how America’s rhythms of civic life are changing.
Though America has had quite a few great presidents, iconic presidents are much rarer. Icons appear only in hindsight and are created in a very specific fashion. First, one party will hail the president as great, while the other claims he has wrecked the country. Then the opposing faction realizes the president wasn’t that bad, and reckons with his policies and broader influence, changing its own policies in the process. And finally, both parties fight to claim the president as their own, that they are his true heirs.
In the 1966 film A Man For All Seasons, which depicts Sir Thomas More’s steadfast disapproval of King Henry VIII’s marital infidelities, More stirringly defends the rule of law. Rebutting his son-in-law, who says he would hypothetically “cut down every law in England” to find the devil, More asks, “And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?”
As I sat down for lunch at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, and Stone Crab in downtown D.C., with my friend Vic Matus to discuss his new book, there was little question about what would accompany our meal.
We were there to talk vodka and Vic’s new book, Vodka: How a Colorless, Odorless, Flavorless Spirit Conquered America. We figured we might as well get some first-hand experience with the subject matter.