When I was in high school, in the mid 2000s, the height of the Bush years, I declared myself a conservative. This wasn’t the result of any actual ideological conviction, but instead just a reaction to the liberal California where I grew up, a desire to be different from everyone around me. I was a lapsed Muslim living in a vaguely Islamophobic society, but I didn’t believe in God or care much for my Pakistani heritage. Above all, I wanted to be accepted as an American, and becoming an outspoken Republican was a way to do that. I had fruitlessly…

Land-ocean temperature index, 1880 to present, with base period 1951–1980 (Author: NASA Goddard Institue for Space Studies; Source: Public Domain)

This past week, the big gossipy news story of the 2020 Democratic Primary was the end of the non-aggression pact between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. First, Politico reported on a volunteer script floating around the Sanders campaign slack channels that (very mildly) criticized Elizabeth Warren (“I like Elizabeth Warren,” the script began, which to me doesn’t feel like too heavy of a criticism). This was followed by a CNN story reporting (via four anonymous sources who weren’t actually in the room) that Sanders had told Warren in a private meeting that he didn’t think a woman could beat Trump…

One of the biggest problems with the new Disney Star Wars films is the way they rely on fan service for their biggest emotional moments. Whether it’s Han Solo’s death in The Force Awakens, Luke Skywalker’s surprising character arc in The Last Jedi, or the return of Emperor Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker, the pathos of the new films comes not from the narratives of any of the new characters but instead from the nostalgic reactions Disney trusts we will have when we see old characters return. Nostalgia is, of course, an extremely powerful emotion (something our current political…

One of the clearest signs that George Lucas actually cared about his movies is the time he took to make them. Whereas Disney set itself a ridiculous timeline of releasing a new Star Wars movie every year since they purchased the franchise, Lucas took three years between The Phantom Menace (1999) and Attack of the Clones (2002), and then another three between Clones and Revenge of the Sith (2005). Whatever you think of the movies, it’s therefore undeniable that Lucas cared about each one individually. As a result, unlike, say, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of Rings, which was filmed all…

I was only 10 when The Phantom Menace came out in 1999, and while I saw the movie in theaters four times, I didn’t appreciate until I was an adult how unsettled it must have made older Star Wars fans feel. It had been sixteen years since Return of the Jedi, and those who’d seen the original films in theaters likely experienced a strange mix of emotions on that May evening in 1999, a heady swirl of excitement and uncertainly as the Lucasfilm logo appeared on the screen, followed by the familiar blue text: A long time ago, etc. etc…

Map of California shown as an island, Johannes Vingboons, circa 1650 (License: Public Domain; Source: Library of Congress)

When it comes to presidential elections, Californians have grown accustomed to the idea that their votes don’t really matter, except in a symbolic sense. Given the structure of American electoral politics, this resignation is understandable. California may be the biggest state in the country, with almost 40 million people and 55 electoral votes (the most of any state), but because it has been reliably Democrat since 1992, a vote for a Democratic presidential candidate in California has less of an impact than a similar vote in a swing state such as Ohio, Florida, or Pennsylvania.

Even in the Democratic primary…

The official opening of the League of Nations in Geneva, November 15, 1920 (Source: Public Domain)

In my debut novel Portrait of Sebastian Khan, a coming-of-age story about a Muslim American art history student, I spend a good amount of time satirizing Model United Nations — that strange academic extracurricular activity in which high school and college students pretend to be diplomats and participate in simulations of United Nations committees. Ostensibly, Model U.N. …

President Richard Nixon and his Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman, surrounded by telegrams from people reacting to his “Silent Majority” speech, 1969 (Source: Nixon White House / Nixon Presidential Library; Public Domain).

Fifty years ago, on November 3, 1969, President Richard Nixon gave his famous “silent majority” speech, a televised address in which he asked Americans to support his plan to end the Vietnam War, what he would later in 1973 describe as “peace with honor.” “And so tonight,” Nixon said on the television that evening, in his oddly stilted cadence, glancing down at the papers in his hands, “to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans — I ask for your support. I pledged in my campaign for the Presidency to end the war in a way that we…

(Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: Ali Zifan; License: CC BY-SA 4.0)

Like most political science concepts, the term “open primary” is a bit confusing and isn’t always used consistently. Technically, an open primary is one in which you don’t have to be affiliated with a political party to vote in that party’s primary — but, because states have all kinds of different rules about the technicalities of this process, political scientists (or whoever it is that comes up with these terms) have differentiated between open primaries, closed primaries, semi-open primaries, semi-closed primaries, and nonpartisan blanket primaries, sometimes referred to as “jungle primaries” (I’m probably also leaving a few subcategories out). …

Biden’s 2020 campaign is built almost entirely on nostalgia for 2008.

A campaign ad can tell us a lot about a candidate — not about their policies, which can be hard to get across in only sixty seconds, but instead about their aesthetic, the way they present themselves and their campaign, the subtle signifiers meant to appeal to specific voters. In a previous blog post, I close-read each major candidate’s campaign announcement video, and my analysis, I think, pretty accurately summarized each candidate’s style and appeal.

Earlier this week, Joe Biden released his first official campaign ad, and close-reading it can tell us a lot about how he’s framing his campaign…

Aatif Rashid

Debut novel PORTRAIT OF SEBASTIAN KHAN (2019, 7.13 Books). Writes about politics and literature.

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