The Slate Plus Digest on Donald Trump and the Republicans, flat earthers, and book clubs for men.

Is the Earth Flat? Will Trump Win? Do Men Join Book Clubs? The Slate Plus Digest.

Is the Earth Flat? Will Trump Win? Do Men Join Book Clubs? The Slate Plus Digest.

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Jan. 29 2016 6:07 PM

Donald Trump, Flat Earthers, and Men in Book Clubs

The Slate Plus Digest for the weekend of Jan. 29.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, B.oB., Donald Trump.
In the news this week: Ta-Nehisi Coates, B.o.B., and Donald Trump.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Anna Webber/Getty Images, Mario Anzuoni/Reuters, Scott Eisen/Getty Images.

Good afternoon! There’s nothing more exciting, in journalism, than when reality confounds your expectations in ways that make you feel genuinely afraid for the future of the world. That’s what’s happening in the Republican primary race, where pundits who dismissed Donald Trump as a clown are coming to realize he’s a clown who’s about to win the nomination.

Fortunately, Slate is here to help, or at least to explain:

Rick Perlstein, who Politico called "a chronicler extraordinaire of modern conservatism,” tells Isaac Chotiner we’re in uncharted territory:

This was the first time in a very long time that I’ve read anything about the Republican Party that I couldn’t assimilate into my normal categories. That was a very uncanny and uncomfortable feeling for me. I realized that I had to go back to the drawing board and rethink what was going on.

Leon Neyfakh asks how Nate Silver, the golden boy of political prognostication, got it so wrong:

Maybe the Trump phenomenon is so unprecedented that no statistical model could have foreseen it. Or maybe it took a candidate as unique as Donald Trump to reveal the flaws and limitations of Silver’s prediction machine.

William Saletan argues that the GOP’s internal governance has broken down:

In foreign policy, there’s a term for governments that don’t govern. We call them failed states. A state can fail for many reasons, but weak or clueless leadership is usually a factor. In a failed state, insurgencies grow, warlords arise, and chaos reigns. That’s what the GOP has become.

And Willa Paskin points out that the campaign is missing a crucial voice:

As we head into a presidential election totally different from any election we’ve seen before, one all but tailored for The Daily Show, there is a Daily Show–shaped hole in the culture, despite a lesser version of the show airing every weeknight.

The good news is that, amid all this chaos, with signs of social collapse everywhere, I was able to correctly identify all 12 of 12 storybook mice! Can you beat me?

Not From Slate

Baby Doe” by Jill Lepore, the New Yorker
This story is about child abuse, and it contains some upsetting anecdotes. But it also explains, powerfully, why attempts to address the problem have failed. —G.R.

In Defense of Flat Earthers” by Lizzie Wade, the Atlantic
Like many scientists, I’m often quick to dismiss fringe theories, like B.o.B’s recent #flatearth tweetstorm. This beautifully written piece stopped me in my tracks. —Eric Holthaus, climate and weather correspondent

Hillary Clinton Goes Back to the Dunning School” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Atlantic
Coates has called out Bernie Sanders for failing to extend his progressive vision to racial justice in America; in this piece, he criticizes Hillary Clinton for perpetuating false narratives about Reconstruction. Since neither candidate seems willing to reckon with America’s racist history, he urges his readers to vote, but to “choose with your skepticism fully intact ... in full awareness of the insufficiency of your options.” —Nora Caplan-Bricker, contributing writer for DoubleX

And on Twitter:

  • Daniel Engber recommended Alina Simone’s “Death of a Troll,” which he calls “superb longform” about the gamification of dark emotions.
  • Leon Neyfakh shared Lindsay Zoladz’s piece on Rihanna’s Anti and the end of the album as “a pop star’s primary means of artistic expression.”
  • And Allison Benedikt wrote, “I loved the second season of Transparent and I love this Wesley Morris piece about it.”

Overheard on Slate Slack

Slack is a chat program we use to discuss the gender dynamics of book clubs.

katy.waldman: Any men here in book clubs?
i’m part of an “inclusive” book club—just a group of friends, fairly evenly split among men/women
i have a bunch of male friends in book clubs but i am not
i know of a dudes-only book club in DC where they talk about masculinity and it is a #safespace
is it fair to say that book clubs are coded feminine? i think it is.
the spirit that animates the Book Club—one of reading and talking—is coded feminine, I mean
fwiw i interned in publishing for a summer and they definitely talked about/marketed to book clubs in a way that assumed they were mostly for women
My vanpool had a heterosexual female member, and every time she talked about book club, we’d be like, “YOU WON’T MEET ANY MEN AT BOOK CLUB!” even though none of us ever asked who was in her book club.
My neighborhood had a book club until everyone got honest and started calling it wine night. But in both cases, all women.
I want to start a “watch sports and drink beer” club just for women, but I can’t find many takers.
my mixed-gender book club is made up mostly of burners. which, i think, explains a lot, and falls in line with katy’s ideas on book clubs seeming more inherently feminine
What is a burner?
they’re people who go to burning man and burning man-like events
OH! I once heard of a burner who was so into being a burner he was going to dental school with the idea—surely ill-conceived—that he could exclusively serve a burner clientele.
I am not a burner but would seek out a burner dentist, if only because I imagine he’d be free with the nitrous
anywho, burner men, in my experience, tend to be way more in touch with their feelings and ideas and discussing them
i am a man who has never been to burning man and previously was in a co-ed book club; #notallmenwhoreadtogetherareburners
I went to Burning Man once, am I a burner?
not necessarily
being a burner is very much a lifestyle
oh ok i’m not then
i like to shower and i don’t have a weird nickname
ha! those are assumptions
very wrong ones
this is revealing! a piece should probably be written on the fraught relationship between book clubs and the American male, and also burners
i used to work at this place where the head of product was a burner. keith. he wore uggs and signed his emails “burn on"

Very Short Q&A

This week’s personal question is addressed to Slate’s news editor Chad Lorenz.

Slate Plus: Slate’s Washington team moved out of the D.C. office on Thursday. What will you miss about it?

Chad Lorenz: I think what I’ll miss the most is having windows that overlook Dupont Circle, a park and intersection that is always teeming with activity. The view from the fourth floor was just high enough to survey the scene and low enough to allow for actual people-watching. In the middle of a stressful day, it would be a nice distraction and literally a way to gain perspective.

Thanks, Chad! When you’re all settled in the new office, I’m sure you’ll remember those halcyon days gazing out at Dupont Circle, watching the people come and go, and curse time’s cruel march, which rips away everything we love eventually.

Thanks also to you for your Slate Plus membership, which supports Slate’s journalism. See you next week!

Gabriel Roth
Slate Plus
editorial director