Maggie Hassan, Lyndon Johnson, DC > NYC, and when to outsource
Folks, the Netherlands is in many ways a hard country to hate. But this weekend it is our patriotic duty as Americans to hate the Dutch. No more going Dutch. No Dutch ovens. No double-Dutch jump rope. I saw a big display of gouda cheese at our local Whole Foods and felt ashamed on behalf of the whole neighborhood. It’s a time for moral clarity.
Edward: Could you share a little insight into how you choose which questions to answer or not answer?
Eli: I don’t know how much of this has been tongue-in-cheek on your part, but some things you’ve tweeted suggest you think healthy friendships between men look different from healthy friendships between women, or at least can function without the kinds of deep conversations and airing of emotions that many people see as essential to a friendship. That hasn’t been my experience – my friendships with men and my friendships with women look pretty similar, and I noticed your tweet from today in particular because over Thanksgiving I met up with multiple male friends primarily to talk. We talked about life events, careers, relationships, and politics. I know I’m atypical in having more close friendships than the average US man, but is there a reason to believe my friendships with men aren’t typical intermale friendships? Do you believe that men in fact are less into getting together and chatting than women, and if so do you believe that contemporary anxiety over male loneliness is overstated, and if so why?
I know this has become a contentious subject in recent years, but my slightly banal opinion is that men and women are different, on average, in some pretty important ways, while at the same time there are lots of exceptions and zones of overlap.
One of those differences is that relative to women, men prefer to center their interactions around some kind of (perhaps pretextual) activity. I could get into elaborate, somewhat speculative theories about why this is, but it seems to me to be pretty well-established that this difference exists, even though there are also obviously exceptions. Something that is less well-established but I think is interesting is that I suspect gender difference in friendship styles interacts with the huge technological advances in home entertainment in a way that is probably bad for men. If your style of friendship is organized around the idea that you explicitly need to directly converse with each other about personal matters, then it’s just going to be obvious on its face that streaming video home alone is not a viable substitute. And cheaper communication technology means it’s easier and more convenient than ever to keep up a running dialogue via text or to do a phone call or video chat.
But if your friendships are more activity-based, then the fact that the relative quality of alone-at-home activities is rising compared to going-out activities is going to significantly disrupt your friendships.
John from VA: You've written a lot about popularism, but you also advocate for some unpopular policies because you think they're good ideas. How do you decide which policies to try and persuade people on and which to throw up your hands and say, "It is what voters say it is"? Obviously, we all have opinions about what really matters, but what's your framework for drawing that line, if there is one?
I feel like I get some version of this question every week so I’m going to keep trying to explain myself better. It might be easiest to look at Maggie Hassan, who just crushed it in her reelection campaign, as a good example of what I mean. She won in part because of a weak opponent, but in part because of tons of ads like this one touting her fiscal responsibility and status as “the most bipartisan senator.” I’m told this ad in particular — highlighting her work on prescription drug prices and surprise billing, but also her bipartisanship and willingness to stand up to President Biden — was extremely effective at persuasion, given that it aired so late in the campaign when persuasion is hard.
The thing about this is that Hassan, with all due respect, is an extremely generic Democratic Party senator. But what she has presented here is a fully accurate, if highly edited, version of herself that is designed to appeal to cross-pressured voters. This idea is so boring that I can’t believe there is a raging, years-long internet controversy about it. But let’s be clear, that’s what Hassan is doing — she’s not firing up the base, she’s not trying to inspire a hypothetical constituency of leftist young people, she’s not promising big structural change, and she’s not engaging in viral cultural war content. And it works really well. I would like to see Democrats bring more of this energy into their communications strategy and earned media rather than just ads. And to acknowledge that while this works really well in New Hampshire, if you want a Senate majority, you need to be competitive in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, and Iowa, which are more conservative than New Hampshire. And that’s probably going to mean putting more meat on the moderate bones than Hassan did. But the basic formula of “publicly emphasize your most popular stuff, quietly do your most important stuff, and acknowledge there are tradeoffs” applies everywhere and carries the critical implication that activists and advocates should not engage in pressure campaigns aimed at forcing candidates to publicly avow controversial stances.
Estate of Bob Saget: Favorite and least favorite airport?
I’m an airport enthusiast, so I can’t just narrow this down to one simple favorite since there are so many dimensions of airport excellence.
For example, DFW is really well-optimized to make transfers. Especially if you’ve flown through it more than once, you understand how it works, and you understand how to get where you’re going. They’re able to manage a very large volume of flights on tight schedules. It’s impressive and it works well compared to the chaotic layouts of IAH or O’Hare. At the same time (and in part for the same reason), it totally lacks character and is a kind of weird, unpleasant place. Now, for most people on a connecting flight, the goal ideally is to not be spending a ton of time waiting in the airport and DFW is fit for purpose there. But if you do have a long connection, then the incomprehensibility of O’Hare isn’t a big problem and the fact that it has great food options is a big plus. I’ve had genuinely good times waiting for flights in Chicago.
Internationally, the airport I’ve been to that’s always praised is Changi in Singapore, which I agree is excellent. But my sleeper choice is Copenhagen, which has a lot of classic Nordic architecture and design, great ground transportation links to the city, and a weirdly large number of upscale luxury stores that make you wonder if a lot of people are making spur-of-the-moment Hermes purchases at the airport. Plus lots of Legos!
Walker: Do you think LBJ is underrated as a President? The vast majority of the American welfare and regulatory state is tied to legislation that LBJ passed as President.
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