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30 December 2018

The best of New Statesman America in 2018

From Trump’s Mueller and Cohen woes to pimps, conspiracies and superheroes.

By New Statesman

New Statesman America served up a lavish mix of in-depth coverage throughout 2018, looking into everything from the ongoing drumbeat of the Mueller investigation and the fight over Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to an in-depth guide to how to fix American democracy, a graphic novel-drawn story about the surprising history of the first openly gay superhero, and a public library in Seattle fighting against homelessness. Here’s a selection of some of New Statesman America’s top pieces from the last year.

Eight simple steps to fix American democracy

How democratic is the United States? According to a poll released by the bipartisan Democracy Project in June, a clear majority (55 per cent) of Americans consider US democracy to be “weak”, with two-thirds (68 per cent) saying it’s “getting weaker.” Half of Americans believe the nation is in “real danger of becoming a non-democratic, authoritarian country”.

In this detailed piece of solutions-oriented journalism, columnist and commentator Mehdi Hasan outlines the concrete steps which would fix America’s ailing democratic institutions.

Without Our Consent

There are moments when the mask comes off. Moments when you can see the stitching come apart on the seamless story powerful men have told themselves about what justice means in the world and who deserves it. Sometimes that curtain gets ripped away and we all have to pay attention to what’s cowering and snarling behind it. That is what has happened in the high-stakes courtroom drama of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination hearings.

In this essay of controlled fury, Laurie Penny unpacks what the Kavanaugh hearings showed about how power operates in patriarchy.

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I was Dennis Hof’s last ever interview, on the night he died. This is what I learned.

Working on a profile, Nicky Woolf went to see the brothel-owner, reality TV star, and “Trump of Pahrump” speak at his birthday party in Nevada. Porn star Ron Jeremy, Hof’s closest friend, gave a spirited rendition of “Oh When The Saints Go Marching In” on a harmonica. Anti-tax activist and conservative sage Grover Norquist spoke; signed copies of his book were auctioned off to raise money for a local dog shelter. Disgraced former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio gave a rambling speech. Fox News host Tucker Carlson called in live on the air to say happy birthday. Through it all, Hof held court from the dais with a grin. Twelve hours later he was dead.

Blue Wave: will these progressive candidates shake up the midterms? In a way, they already have

In November, an unprecedented “blue wave” swept into power the youngest, most diverse, and most progressive Congress in American history. In this set of profiles, Sophie McBain interviews some of the most prominent and exciting new candidates changing the face of American politics and standing up to the political establishment.

QAnon: inside the 4Chan conspiracy that suggests Donald Trump is a secret genius

On 15 June 2018, Matthew Phillip Wright, a 30-year-old marine corps veteran from Henderson, Nevada, drove a homemade armoured truck to the middle of a bridge near the Hoover Dam in Arizona. He parked, blocking traffic, and got out. In one hand he was carrying a sign which said “Release the OIG report”, a reference to an investigation by the US Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector-General into Hillary Clinton’s email server scandal that had in fact already been released to the public earlier that week. In his other hand he was holding an AR-15 assault rifle. Nicky Woolf takes deep look inside QAnon, the dangerous – and extremely weird – conspiracy theory that drove Wright to the bridge that day.

Alpha Flight: the surprising story of Marvel Comics’ little-known Canadian superheroes

Marvel’s obscure Canadian superhero group gave us a number of societal watermarks. The first-ever gay superhero. The first-ever superhero with dwarfism – who may well have been the inspiration for Tyrion Lannister. It also gave us one of the first instances of an episodic adventure series in any medium abruptly killing off a lead character for shock value.

In this lavish story, drawn in comic-book style, writer and artist Tony Wolf takes us into the surprising world of Alpha Flight.

What Steve Bannon really believes in

Bannon, the former Breitbart chief and architect of Trump’s 2016 electoral victory, hit headlines again in 2018 as he embarked on a controversial – and often-challenged – speaking tour. After a slated appearance at the New Yorker festival in New York was cancelled, Sophie McBain looks deeper at this mercurial and controversial figure, and asks: does he just believe in winning? Or is there something deeper?

By pulling out of the Iran deal, Donald Trump has ushered in the end of the American era

The president walked away. Not just from an agreement that was working well. Not only from nations that took us at our word. He walked away from a time honoured tradition of Washington playing a primary role in holding up the international order. It’s a singular position America has occupied on the world stage since the end of the Cold War. Security, economic, political stability has depended on its presence. Donald Trump knocked it down with a bulldozer.

Brett Bruen, who served on President Obama’s National Security Council, outlines the lasting and catastrophic damage Trump is wreaking on the global community.

How Seattle’s public library is stepping up to deal with the city’s homelessness crisis

Home to Starbucks, Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon, Seattle is booming. Yet the liberal West Coast city also has the third-largest homeless population in the country. Here, approximately 12,500 people live on the streets. That’s one in 175 residents of King County, the greater Seattle area. 200 homeless people die on its streets every year.

In this piece, Daniel Rey looks at how a pioneering public organisation – Seattle’s public library – is taking a stand against the growing problem of homelessness on the West Coast and, in so doing, is re-defining the very idea of what a library is and does.

A democratic socialist in America: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s mission

In the speech that followed her stunning victory in New York’s Democratic congressional primary on 26 June, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez promised her supporters: “This is only the beginning.” She was right: in November the 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress in November, and is already rewriting the rules of American politics.

In August, Sophie McBain profiled the then-candidate who would go on to take America by storm.

Impeaching Trump won’t and can’t work. But we should try it

Despite the Democrat victory in the House, impeaching Trump remains practically impossible, Nicky Woolf writes. But while the constitution states that impeachment requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate to pass, so even if the Democrats had won every swing seat they lost on Tuesday they still wouldn’t have anywhere near the votes they need in the Senate. So: it’s a no-go. …Mostly. While it is true that bringing impeachment, as it were, to completion, is extremely unlikely, it’s not impossible. Trump is protected not by an impenetrable wall, but by people: specifically, the Republican Party.

Donald Trump and Michael Cohen: a comprehensive timeline

In December, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for a “smorgasbord” of offences. In this comprehensive timeline, Sophie McBain goes right back to the beginning to chart the course which led Cohen to this tragic denouement. Could it spell legal trouble for Trump too? Only time will tell.

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