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Articles by Matt Wolfson

Newt Gingrich Relies on Vague American Ideals for Popularity

It’s a fairly safe assertion to make that the Claremont Colleges are home to few if any Newt Gingrich supporters. Yet Gingrich deserves consideration by supporters and detractors alike, because there is a chance that he will become the Republican presidential nominee...

Recent Revolutions Remind Us What Democracy Means

Maybe discrediting the domino effect was premature. A month after Egyptian protests brought down Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship, oppressive regimes across North Africa and the Middle East are quaking and crumbling. Some experts are speculating about the dawn of a “fourth era” in...

Winter’s Bone: Finding Humanity in Hard Times

The Academy Awards will be held on Sunday night, and one of the contenders for Best Picture is a little out of the ordinary when it comes to the Oscar circuit. Winter’s Bone, an independent film that won the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, is about poverty,...

A Domestic Look at Egypt

Sometimes big changes happen fast. Last week, Egypt was a case in point. After 18 days of trying to wait out the mass protests in Cairo, Hosni Mubarak finally gave up the Egyptian presidency. His last hours in power were schizophrenic ones; if the stakes had been lower, it might have been funny....

MTV’s Skins Sends Wrong Message to Youth

MTV, proud producer of Jersey Shore, is making waves with its new hit show Skins. Two weeks ago, the media watchdog Parents Television Council pronounced that the wildly popular series was “the most dangerous show for children that we have ever seen.” In response, Skins supporters...

The Deathly Hallows: Seventh Time’s a Charm

I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter books, but so far I’ve been disappointed by the movie adaptations. Not this time around. For me at least, the seventh Harry Potter film did what I thought was unthinkable: it improved on the parts of the novel it portrayed. The movie enacts the first...

Modern Family: Revealing an American Reality

What does it mean to be a modern family? The Emmy Award-winning TV show Modern Family, now in its second season, answers that question in two ways. The first fairly superficial answer that the show gives is that “modern families” are diverse. Cam and Mitchell are a gay couple who...

Tea Partiers Come to Washington, Bringing a New Dynamic to Capitol Hill

What Jon Stewart amusingly but inaccurately dubbed “Indecision 2010” is finally over. The polls have closed and voters were decisive. Now things get interesting. America is once again under divided government and the battle lines are drawn: Republicans on the Hill vs. Democrats in the...

Why The Democrats Are Losing Ground

Over fall break I spent two hours watching Daniel Craig (a.k.a. James Bond) go toe-to-toe with an egomaniacal killer bent on world domination. In Bond’s universe, this is standard fare, but I didn’t think the overblown evilness of a 007 villain existed in reality until a day or two...

“Arrested Development” and American Society

One of life’s tragedies is that “Arrested Development” went off the air after only three seasons. Rubbing salt into the wound, the post-cancellation movie is now stalled. This upsets me a great deal because, with the possible exception of the Dunphys of “Modern...

A Mass Outbreak of American Rage

As “The Apprentice” hobbled into its sixth season last week, TV spots ran the following tantalizing exchange from the show:Contender A: “I need you to calm down.”Contender B: “I need you to shut up.”I wasn’t compelled to tune in, but this piece of grist...

The Cash Machine Candidates of America

As all 5-C students have voluntarily committed at least four years of their lives to California, it seems appropriate to say a few words about Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay and potentially the Terminator’s successor as the Golden State’s governor. Nowadays you can hear her on...

Election 2010: Congress on the Chopping Block

We’re nearly six months away from the 2010 midterms, and the country is in a foul mood. “Democrats’ Long-Held Seats Face GOP Threat,” reported the New York Times last Sunday. “Both parties,” the article noted, “agree that Republicans are within reach of...

Rethinking the Tea Partiers

The widespread perception of the Tea Party, both among the left and among the large swath of moderate Americans, has been an amalgamation of Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, and Glenn Beck—that is to say, of hyperbole, misinformation and uncensored rage. Last week, though, the New York Times and...

The Health Care Summit: A Forum for Hypocrisy

“People are angry,” Senator John McCain told Barack Obama at last Friday’s seven-hour health care summit. “We promised them change in Washington, and what we got was a process that you and I both said we would change.” Obama replied waspishly, “John,...

Despite Gains, GOP Isn’t Ready To Lead

It’s been 78 years since FDR’s New Deal and 45 years since LBJ’s Great Society, the two great triumphs of liberal expansionist government. But now it’s 2010, and it’s increasingly looking like the Democrats missed the boat this time around. Health care reform is...

Narrowing Obama’s Progressive Agenda

We are one year into Barack Obama’s presidency, and the knives are out. There was never a moment of serious doubt on the right: Obama’s election equaled the triumph of socialism, which meant America’s imminent doom. But now the left is in revolt, leveling increasingly...

Re-thinking Hope and Change: Do Americans Still Support Barack Obama?

Last week, two articles covering Barack Obama appeared which were startling in both content and tone. The first was from The Economist, a magazine that has been relatively supportive of the White House in the past. It talked about the disturbing “weakness” the President showed in his...

Unwilling Reformers: President Obama Needs to Take Back Control of His Message

When Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International, spoke at the Athenaeum two weeks ago, he said something surprising: his greatest fear for America has less to do with any of the normal trouble spots—finance or healthcare or national security or immigration—than with the utter...

Progressives’ Doldrums: Public Grows Impatient with Reform

Well, who knew? The Republicans, who for the last year have been exhibiting all the emotional symptoms we normally associate with serious midlife crises (confusion, resentment, Tourette’s-like outbursts at inappropriate times), suddenly seem relevant again. In the only two gubernatorial...

What Bush Wrought: The Republicans are No Longer Conservatives

I sometimes think we underestimate the Republicans’ contribution to our political lives. Just when things were getting a little slow—you can’t give the president of the United States a Nobel Prize every Friday—up popped Rush Limbaugh wanting to buy the St. Louis Rams. A...

Perceptions Meaningful Messages: Barack Obama’s Unexpected Nobel

Last week, something unusual happened in Washington, D.C.: President Obama was at a loss for words. Actually, a lot of the D.C. establishment failed miserably in the rapid-response department, all thanks to Nobel Prize Committee Chair Thorbjoern Jagland. Jagland managed to throw everyone for a...

The Cooling Effect: Obama and Gaddafi Take on the UN

Despite its occasional excitement, the political arena often coasts at a median altitude of boring. How many Americans actually know what a public option is? Or who Max Baucus is? They have lives to live and mouths to feed, plus Angelina Jolie is a lot more interesting than Nancy Pelosi. Add to...

The Importance of Character is Increasing in American Politics

One of the extraordinary and confusing aspects of modern democratic societies is that people can spring—almost literally—from nowhere onto center stage.You are a young African-American state senator from Illinois with extraordinary talents, living a relatively ordinary life. No one...

The Value of Reasonable Exceptionalism

The clear and present danger of terrorism, two long wars, and an economic downward spiral have wrought changes, both large and small, in the American fabric of life. One change that I am noticing, and that I find deeply disturbing, is that we seem to be abandoning our sense of...

Chicago's Political Powers

This March I was in Chicago visiting a friend whose aunt works in city government and talk, unsurprisingly, turned to Barack Obama. The aunt is directly connected through her work to one of Obama’s top advisors, Valerie Jarrett. She remembers Jarrett as influential partly because of her...

A Serious Party: Republicans Must Replace Defensiveness With Proactivity

Last month, I was talking about Sarah Palin with an old friend of our family, a staunch conservative of thirty years who voted for Barack Obama in November. He was comparing her to Ronald Reagan. “I remember seeing Reagan come up to the microphone in ’76 at the Republican National...

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