TPM Cafe: Opinion

It appears that Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin believes he can shrug his way into being the Republican nominee for president. Journalists are quickly learning that if you ask Walker to comment on any of the issues that are riling up the fundamentalists, birthers or other right wingnuts these days, Walker will be respond with his impression of a popular emoticon: ¯\(ツ)/¯.

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Last night at the Oscars, Jennifer Lopez, the Latina singer and actress from the Bronx reportedly worth $300 million dollars, cheered enthusiastically for women’s wage equality (women still make around 77 cents on the dollar). J. Lo has never been considered a feminist by the media; indeed, she’s never even been subject to the obligatory “Are you a feminist?” question every reporter asks female stars nowadays. But even though this may have been Lopez’s only public moment as an arbiter of women’s equality, it certainly wasn’t her first foray into gender equality. J. Lo has been a stealth feminist all along.

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In the run-up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the U.S. Congress, many pundits have focused on how Netanyahu turned Israel into a partisan issue in Washington. Some like to talk about Netanyahu's terrible relationship with President Obama and his disrespect of internal American politics. Others claim thatNetanyahu and the Republican Party are attempting to sabotage Obama's foreign policy on Iran, a dynamic that creates a partisan split with respect to Israel, as well. These arguments are surely true; Netanyahu is putting Israel in a difficult position. But this is not only a conversation about politics, it’s also about policy. And while support for Israel's right to defend its citizens should remain bipartisan, many issues within Israel are by their very nature partisan. Moreover, how to achieve Israel's security, and what a secure Israel means is also intrinsicallya partisan question.

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In 2013 Emily Lindin began putting her diary entries online. The pages that she posted detailed her experience, between the ages of 11 and 14, of being labeled the school slut and slut-shamed.

Since that first entry went live, The UnSlut Project has grown to include the stories of teens, women and men who have had experience with this particular form of harassment and bullying. Lindin is currently working on “Slut: A Documentary Film,” a movie that expands on some of these stories and looks at the larger implications of slut-shaming and what the term says about female sexuality and how it is viewed, discussed and judged in contemporary society. (Lindin is currently in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for post-production.)

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Earlier this month, Mauro Mujica, the head of the organization U.S. English, praised West Virginia's H.B. 2573, which would require that all official state business be conducted in English, calling it an “important policy for the good of all state residents." This is the same man who wrote a disturbing editorial in which he said:

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Anyone who follows the conservative movement carefully could tell you that it’s about 25 percent politics and 75 percent mail-order scam. For more than half a century now, charlatans passing themselves off as conservative leaders have exploited ordinary conservatives’ anxiety about a changing America to collect addresses and now email lists in order to sell snake oil and raise funds that followers believe are going to political causes but frequently just line the pockets of the con artists. The conservative tendency to con their own people occasionally piques the interest of the liberal media. Media Matters, for instance, has run exposes on how conservative luminaries like Mike Huckabee and Scott Brown sold their mailing lists to con artists peddling fake “cures” for Alzheimer’s and cancer. Rachel Maddow has been reporting for years on how Newt Gingrich scams money off his followers through direct mail offers of “awards” and by trying to rope them into fraudulent investments.

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Prophecies of big, realigning political trends are perilous. Kevin Phillips’ classic 1969 work, The Emerging Republican Majority, was all but discarded after Watergate, the Nixon resignation and the 1974 Democratic landslide made its title (if not its analysis) look foolish. Similarly, The Emerging Democratic Majority, the mirror-image “sequel” to Phillips’ work from John Judis and Ruy Teixeira, had the misfortune of being published in 2002, when Republicans were on the brink of winning a rare midterm win for a presidential party and Karl Rove was popularizing his own theories of how Republicans could consolidate a stable majority. But just as Phillips seemed vindicated by the political trends of the eighties, Judis and Teixeira had their moment of prophetic celebrity in 2008, when the Democratic coalition they had projected appeared in full bloom in the form of Barack Obama.

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While it hasn’t yet made significant inroads into mainstream D.C. political coverage, Congress’ push to reform No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has continued over the last several weeks. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, recently backed away from his first 2015 effort at rewriting the bill and invited committee Democrats to join him at the drafting table.

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Whatever your take on the historical accuracy or fairness of the LBJ-MLK sequences in Selma, those scenes remind us of a key fact: that a presidency is defined far more by conversation than by isolated action. From elementary school on, it seems to be all about those individual figures: their portraits in sequence, their faces on Mount Rushmore, their names memorized and associated with policies and controversies. Yet just as Johnson and his administration were so deeply connected to King, so too should we remember all our presidents—and especially our most famous ones—through the conversations that helped shape them and their eras. Here are three under-remembered examples, from three of those Rushmore icons.

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Craig Hicks, the Chapel Hill, N.C. man who has confessed to the murder of three young Muslim American students, has been defined in news stories most consistently through two attributes: his vocal atheism and his passionate support for gun rights.

Yet the #muslimlivesmatter hashtag that emerged right after the shootings and the father of two of the victims have painted a portrait of a man defined more by Islamophobia than by anything else. Islamophobia is a real and important issue, whatever role in played in Hicks’ actions. But a little history shows that the story of Muslims in America is longstanding and complex—and that they have not always been rejected nor excluded by the white, Christian majority, even in the Carolinas.

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

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