Politics roundup: Senator McCain leaves many questioning future politics


Senator John McCain’s death leaves big political questions in his wake. Meanwhile, yet another White House denizen is on their way out

John McCain’s passing

The biggest news this week remains the passing of Arizona Senator John McCain on Saturday. The passing of another human being is a good enough reason to step away from political discourse for at least a few minutes.

That said, McCain leaves behind some significant political situations. There is the matter of filling his Senate seat, of course. That decision falls to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, who is surely sweating it out as he faces pressure from all sides. Should he select a moderate Republican to follow in McCain’s ideological footsteps? Or, would his political career be better served by an appointee who will support the White House?

McCain himself was often in opposition to the current presidential administration, not least because of the president’s highly partisan rhetoric. Whether or not you agree that McCain was a true across-the-aisle sort of politician, he at least spoke in favor of truly bipartisan politics.

McCain’s various funerals and memorial services have acted as something of a snub to the current president, who was very much not invited. Meanwhile, former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush were both asked to speak at McCain’s services.

Both former Vice President Joe Biden and current Secretary of Defense James Mattis acted as pallbearers. Biden also delivered the eulogy at McCain’s Arizona memorial.

The White House responded by dragging its feet on its own memorializations, including an order to lower all flags to half-staff in the Senator’s honor.

Beto closes in on Cruz in Texas primaries

Making conjectures about political hopefuls is a notoriously tricky business. Sure, there are hard facts, such as election results and polling numbers. At the same time, there are far more nebulous factors that come into play. What of a candidate’s charisma? How do they connect with a diverse array of voters to the extent that they will vote in a given way? It’s far too easy to take subjective measurements such as these and produce a real dud of a prediction. Calling someone the “next Obama”, then, feels a bit much.

That said, Texas Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke is making headlines for just that reason. Oh, and also because his polling numbers are drawing ever closer to those of his opponent, Senator Ted Cruz.

Like many other candidates, O’Rourke’s fate in this race could help predict larger political trends over the next few years. Right now, the heart of the matter for many commentators is this: will the far-right and populist conservatism that has taken over the government remain in place? Or, will it experience a serious blow in the November midterm elections?

Gillum secures Democratic nomination for Florida governor

While subjective predictions are tricky, so, too, are the seemingly solid quantitative methods like polling and statistical analysis. How else could Andrew Gillum’s nomination win have come as a surprise?

Gillum secured the Democratic nomination for Florida governor on Tuesday, becoming the first black candidate ever nominated by Florida’s Democratic party. If he wins the gubernatorial race, he would also become the state’s first-ever black governor.

Gillum, who is currently the mayor of the state capital of Tallahassee, surprised many. Analysts had predicted that the decidedly progressive mayor would not do well in a reliably red state, where Democrats often feel that they shouldn’t rock the political boat too much. Yet, Gillum’s win seems to have upset the boat considerably. He supports a single-payer health care system, a $15.00 per hour minimum wage, and a higher corporate tax rate to fund the state’s educational system.

Republican nominee Ron DeSantis will face off against Gillum in November’s general election. Forecasters haven’t been able to come up with a clear winner at this point, though this week’s primary has already undermined such authority.

Florida’s red state status could still give DeSantis a significant advantage, though the Republican nominee seems to be working against his own best interests. That’s because DeSantis keeps tripping up with some unfortunate language, unintentionally or not.

DeSantis claimed that Florida voters would “monkey this up” if they voted for Gillum and that said that he was an “articulate spokesman” for progressive politics. There’s no skirting around these comments — they’re racist and offensive remarks towards an African-American candidate.

Don McGahn surprised by news of his resignation

If you happen be to working within the current White House, it’s probably a smart move to keep your resume up to date. There’s no telling when you’ll be the next one up for ousting. Certainly, the whole affair may come as a last-minute surprise to you.

That appears to be what happened to White House counsel Don McGahn, who learned of his upcoming resignation when the president announced it on Wednesday. McGahn, who actually has one of the longest stints of any official within the presidential administration, was going to step down after the successful confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Even then, McGahn was a surprisingly successful White House lawyer. He had an unusually high amount of control over judicial appointments, despite his unremarkable law degree and — for the president’s taste, as speculated — a somewhat over-long haircut.

Apparently, McGahn was also one of the major figures standing between the president and the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller. On one occasion, only McGahn’s threat to quit stopped Mueller’s termination. With McGahn gone, it is easy to wonder what would happen to investigations and troublesome officials such as Mueller. If the special counsel were cleared away, would things continue unabated, or would it prove to be another disastrous Saturday Night Massacre?

And, finally, your palate cleanser

Maybe the matter of book covers doesn’t seem like such an important thing, but be honest with yourself: how often have you failed to consider a book because of its lame cover? And how often have you given whatever novel or nonfiction volume you’ve seen a second chance because something about it visually appeals to you?

Even in the world of digital books, where people still complain about missing the smell of paper or the paper cuts that inevitably occur, covers matter. A bright, bold, or otherwise interesting cover can jump out at you from those endless lists of shopping and review sites online.

You can argue that it’s really the inside that makes up the bulk of a book-based experience, but then again, we all have to start somewhere.

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So, it follows that cover designs matter. If we’re being honest, a good cover design can make a difference in how a book fares. This piece in The Guardian argues that social media has had an especially large role in cover design.

Be sure to check out this Vanity Fair piece that explores the recent trend in floral book covers. Meanwhile, this LitHub article from designer Sara Wood delves deep into the sometimes agonizing decisions that go into a striking cover.