TPM Cafe: Opinion

I always joked with my friends that Mad Men’s real title was White Men. Because that’s what it’s about. It’s about white dudes in New York City figuring out how to get everyone else to buy shit from their clients. It is about men in advertising, marketing and capitalism.

Normally, this would bore me. But that’s the strange thing about Mad Men: It doesn’t bore me at all. While the context is business and the majority of characters are white men, it certainly isn’t what the show is about. Somehow, the show displaces its own premise and becomes a vehicle to understand the American present.

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For one reason or another, it’s become a foreign policy stage on the early path to the 2016 election. Is Marco Rubio an empty tough-talker who happens to be smarter than his vacuous competitors? Or is he a now an elite voice on international relations? Or is he a klutz whose unwillingness to call out the mistakes of earlier Republicans on the Iraq War chained him to their errors?

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Jeb Bush had a very bad week. The presumptive Republican presidential candidate repeatedly failed the most basic foreign policy test of his candidacy. The question, offered up in a friendly Fox News interview, was straightforward. “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion (of Iraq).” His first answer, “Yes”, was diametrically opposed to the view of fully two-thirds of the American people as reflected in recent polling. Surprisingly, it even enraged the right wing echo chamber – the same voices that accused opponents of the war at the time of un-American and even treasonous behavior. One of the loudest conservative voices even questioned Mr. Bush’s sanity.

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A few months ago, I was at a dinner of a dozen students and a 60-year-old entrepreneur who made himself a fortune on Wall Street. At the time, I was a junior at Yale and the only person at the table studying a computer-related major. We went around saying what our big dreams were. When I said that I was studying computer science because I want to be a software engineer and hope to start my own company one day, he said, “Why waste so many years learning how to code? Why not just pay someone else to build your idea?!”

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As the record-setting and dangerous drought in California has made its way into our national conversations, many of the related stories have highlighted the role that a certain kind of elitism has played in exacerbating (if not contributing to) the state’s water shortage. I’m thinking about the central presence of bottled water in such stories, including Starbucks’ recent announcement that it will be moving its bottled water facilities out of California; the move makes sense, but also highlights the fact that Starbucks has bottled water facilities. Which is to say, if such stories (along with those about Nestlé’s bottled water operations in California) are partly about the damaging footprint of multinational corporations, they’re also about the demand among certain American communities for bottled water that is costly in every sense.

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After reading any number of essays (e.g., here and here) on the lessons American conservatives should learn from David Cameron’s triumph last week in the UK elections, my very first reaction was pure mockery:

Republicans should boast of their successful management of an economic recovery while attacking their opponent’s irresponsibility in office during the last decade and exploiting fears of a regional secession movement. Towards the end of the election cycle they should cannibalize the votes of their coalition partners and execute a surge to 36.9% of the electorate!

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Finale season on network television is also a glimpse at the future; this week we saw a flurry of pickups, renewals and cancellations. Among them were two major casualties, both female minority showrunners: Mindy Kaling of FOX’s critically-acclaimed but perennially low-rated The Mindy Project, and Cristela Alonzo of ABC’s endearing Cristela. To network executives, these are just two of more than 30 shows that got the boot; to viewers of color, however, their departure from the airwaves holds far greater significance.

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Last week, Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig at the New Republic wrote a piece dismissing Mike Huckabee’s presidential chances in 2016. Her conclusion was not a particularly controversial one—I doubt even Mike Huckabee thinks he’ll win so much as scare up some new names to advertise to on his email list—but the reasoning she used to get there was totally misplaced. “But the culture wars are over, and things did not shake out in evangelicals’ favor,” she writes, arguing that Huckabee is a relic of a time long ago (okay, just a few years ago), and the time of the Bible-thumper has passed.

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My first experience with sexual harassment happened in elementary school. A group of boys became fascinated with me and my sister: They pulled our hair, knocked over our crayons and enjoyed putting their index finger through the zipper of their jeans as if it were a penis. No matter how often I informed the counselors of the boys’ behavior, their punishment was always tepid: “Boys, stop it.”

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com
Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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