The Essential 2024 Newsletter
Whether you're a seasoned political junkie or a functioning human adult, the Sometimes Weekly newsletter is your essential guide for navigating 2024.
Over the past few years, I’ve been building the necessary infrastructure to successfully engage in the art (and con) of professional political punditry.
Today, I’m proud to announce that the Sometimes Weekly newsletter — yes, the very newsletter you’re reading right now — is the essential newsletter for understanding American life in 2024. Hurrah!
The critical reader may be skeptical upon reading such a lofty claim. The essential newsletter? That’s right. The essential newsletter. What the critical reader must understand is that lofty claims are central to the art (and con) of professional political punditry. This lofty claim, which some may even describe as unfounded, will be the first of many lofty claims I declare over the next eleven months. You see, this is my obligation now that I’m a Very Serious Professional Political Pundit (VSPPP). This kind of bravado is necessary if I’m going to convince you, the reader, that I’m positioned to explore and explain the chaotic times we both find ourselves in. I mean, how else am I going to end up as a regular guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe?!
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While there’s always a bit of irony present in my writing (and, to be clear, I don’t have a firm grasp on what irony really is) I do take this work seriously. I truly believe there’s a need for people who are outside of the Beltway brunch scene to share their thoughts on American life, and, in particular, the political environment we all find ourselves in. That political environment, as we know, is an increasingly dark one. That darkness must be combatted, and through this newsletter I hope to provide some light-based refuge in that regard.
The reader should know that while I take the work of Sometimes Weekly seriously, I don’t take myself too seriously. This has put me in some precarious positions, like nearly being sued by Donald Trump for copyright infringement or having Fox News accidentally advertise my fake Trump dating website. It’s also how I ended up engaging in Tweet-based diplomacy with North Korea, resulting in a Japanese watchdog group labeling me an “extremely normal American” but also “indescribably creepy.” Harsh, but fair.
While a journalist typically seeks to remove their subjective self from their objective review of reality, I view my role as a VSPPP differently. My role, as I see it, is to insert myself into the conversation and story, and by extension, bring the reader along with me. Here we are, you and I, where we’re not meant to be. Inside the story. Sure, the corporations prefer we neglect the task of participation and instead encourage and even manipulate us to take up the role of passive spectator. But here at Sometimes Weekly, we’re not spectators. We’re participants. And participation is all about subjective experience, baby!
This combination — the seriousness with which I take my work and the unseriousness with which I take myself — is the foundation by which this newsletter enters the realm of essential.
Broadly speaking (which is the preferred method of speaking for a VSPPP such as myself) the establishment press has lost its aspirational drive, which is to serve as the Fourth Estate, informing the American public of the world’s goings-on, but which now seems to be entirely driven by clicks and profit.
Meanwhile, many of the journalists we watch on cable television appear driven by a general need to be accepted and well-liked by the people in power they’re meant to be covering objectively, regardless of what the person in power believes or does, up to and including enabling of authoritarian behavior. Indeed, in a well-functioning society, we the people entrust journalists to cover those in power objectively. (Though, in the defense of these journalists, their deep-rooted ambition is likely the same as mine: to appear regularly on Morning Joe.)
If the media is ultimately unwilling to cover American politics in a way which clearly articulates the threats we face, which almost entirely originates from the Republican Party, and the Republican Party leadership is unwilling to confront the darkness that has embedded itself within their ranks, then that leaves the Democratic Party to do all the heavy lifting. And, as we all know, the Democratic Party is really bad at almost everything!
So here we are.
Gathered at a kind of online public square.
Each holding a general awareness of the work that’s being asked of us, but with a shared general anxiety of the unknown. Will we prevail?
Whether well-functioning or otherwise, a democratic society requires active citizenship for continued self-preservation. With that simple self-evident truth, we shouldn’t be too surprised that it falls to us, you and I, to preserve American democracy.
Here’s the good news: Together, I believe we’ll do just that.
It’s not always fun to read words.
In fact, in our world today, and especially when American politics is the topic of discussion, most words seem to be, when strung together in a sentence-like structure which conveys both objective and subjective truths, very un-fun to read.
It’s possible the reader, when presented with the facts of our time (war, climate change, fascism, and so on) believes there’s a legitimate need for most writing in today’s political, social, and economic context to be un-fun to read. That is, to be pessimistic — because things are, indeed, bad.
My writing isn’t meant to convince you that things aren’t bad. There are plenty of reasons to correctly worry about the world and our shared future within it. At times, it’s necessary to seek content which delivers a solid dose of “you’re not crazy, things are bad!” because otherwise we risk despair or, perhaps worse, a kind of ignorant optimism.
But as someone who is cursed with Irish ancestry and the glum-but-grounded optimism that comes along with it, I find it necessary to write about such existing and existential problems with some light-hearted humor and an overall pull toward positivity which, when done well, can balance equally alongside the justified feelings of fear and anxiety.
At the end of this kind of writing, the message to the reader should be something like: yes, things are bad, but there’s reason for hope. The reason for hope is relatively simple: despite the challenges we’re up against, we’re not alone and together we can change the world.
Examples of Irish Optimism
In a recent episode of Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, President Joe Biden discussed his tendency toward optimism, describing himself as a “congenital optimist.” Conan likewise expressed his optimistic bent, while acknowledging the need for a “healthy dose” of concern.
Conan: I always tell people I’m a 52% optimist, meaning there’s a good healthy dose that’s very worried and very concerned. But I always lean toward optimism. It’s the more challenging standpoint to take.
Pres. Biden: Well, don’t get me wrong. I’ve written about and I think I know pretty intimately the downside.
Despite a life of challenge and loss, and yes, success too, and despite intimately knowing the downsides presented by life, President Biden has maintained his optimism.
Considering the context, I view Biden’s optimism as an extraordinary trait. And in a cynical world, a desirable trait.
President Biden ends nearly every speech and interview he gives by underscoring his optimism for the future of the United States and its citizens. Speaking at Independence Hall in Philadelphia two months before the 2022 midterms, Biden expressed this sentiment: “Even in this moment with all the challenges we face, I give you my word as a Biden, I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s future. Not because of me, but because of who you are.”
What’s more, Biden often quotes the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, who wrote of rare moments in history when hope provides a path for opportunity and progress:
History says, don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracle
And cures and healing wells.
Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky.
Excerpt from “The Cure at Troy”
by Seamus Heaney
The point of these examples — of a life-long politician who is the 46th President of the United States, of a life-long comedian who has consistently reinvented himself when facing professional adversity, and of a skilled Irish poet whom I know very little about — is to underscore how difficult it is to maintain optimism particularly when we’re facing difficult challenges. The examples also serve to underscore the Irish tradition of pursuing individual spirit and maintaining optimism despite the harsh reality we may occasionally (or often) find ourselves in.
It’s incredibly difficult to convey both an understanding of the issues we face while, at the same time, instilling a sense of optimism. The optimism that I hold is a very fragile thing. To express it effectively is a very difficult maneuver. But it’s important for the reader to know the writer himself does, in fact, strive to maintain optimism. In his optimism, the writer does not mean to diminish the reader’s well-informed concern or even righteous indignation.
This newsletter does not exist to tell you what to believe or how to think.
Instead, it exists as a conversation. This newsletter is meant to be engaged with by the reader, in-depth or otherwise, so as to spark reflection and, ideally, to move the reader toward an optimistic disposition. This is achieved best, I believe, through a sense of community and camaraderie.
Now, the door has opened.
The conversation has started.
We should get to work.
The Road Ahead
At the end of 2022, after a better-than-expected performance by Democrats in the midterm elections, I wrote about the shared crises we’re facing and my view of the need to move forward together as a community.
Our present moment requires our involvement. We must not turn away from these threats to our democracy. We must be willing, as American citizens, to stand up for and defend the values we hold central to our view of the world: freedom, equality, sovereignty, individualism, and so on.
For me, the involvement required manifests itself as, well, the words you’re reading right now. Writing about these things is my expression and attempt to influence, even in a very small way, the path we’re on as a nation. But the call to action will manifest itself differently in different people. For some, it may be political activism. For others, it means a focused commitment to family. For others still, it may be the simple act of voting.
I’m not here to prescribe action. I’m here to encourage you to pursue your instinctual obligation, whatever that may be. You are not a spectator in life.
We must do everything we can to prevent ourselves from falling into the same darkness that seems to increasingly consume so many of our neighbors, for that darkness can destroy the will to move forward. We must stand in opposition of that darkness and of the violence it ultimately produces. Our moment of crisis should not produce sustained panic — at least not yet.
Yes, things are bad, but there’s reason for hope. Despite the challenges we’re up against, and whether or not we’re booked on Morning Joe, we need to remember: we’re not alone and together we can change the world.
Thanks for reading and see you next week!
Publisher’s note: Long-time readers will be happy to learn that Weekly Jabs (headlines from the week) will be returning as a regular newsletter subsection in next week’s edition. If you have any questions or topics you’d like to see covered in the newsletter, email email@example.com and it may be featured in a future Mailbag conversation!
On the Trail ‘24
Observing an All-American political sideshow — From the steps of Independence Hall to RFK Jr.'s "historic" third-party announcement, I embark on the sobering journey of becoming a serious political pundit.
Selected Essays & Humor
Links Across the Busy Web
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