Robert Redford, high-school politics, failed democrats and more


The school shooting in Parkland, Florida, energized a movement of young survivors against American gun culture. We spoke with New York Times columnist Bret Stephens — who wrote a controversial column in the fall arguing for a repeal of the Second Amendment — about the way forward, the wildness of American life, and why a great cause, like gun control, needs a commensurate goal.


Tom Perrotta’s novel (immortalized in a film by Alexander Payne) captures the paradoxical truth that the smaller the stakes are in politics the uglier and more vicious the fighting over them. This dark tale of an insufferable high-schooler campaigning for student body president and the teacher who becomes obsessed with her outlines a number of American pre-occupations: power, sex, equality, and freedom. It captures, too, the perverse forces bubbling away beneath even the most outwardly orderly lives and their destructive consequences.


Beloved director Michael Ritchie (of Bad News Bears, Semi-Tough, and Fletch fame) took on the endlessly fascinating subject of national presidential politics in this fast-paced comedy about ambition, idealism, and compromise. Robert Redford stars as Bill McKay, a dark-horse Democratic candidate drafted specifically to lose an election while building up some political capital. The trouble starts when McKay and his team realize they have a shot at victory and must walk back the honesty that has defined McKay’s candidacy in favor of a more generic message.


Alexander Kerensky was born in 1881. If ever anyone could have used better political advice about democracy and realpolitik, it is this dedicated, loyal, and — in the final analysis — dangerously incompetent public servant. Kerensky rose from middle-class beginnings to become the head of the Provisional Government after the February Revolution in 1917 Russia; his subsequent handling of the power vested in him allowed the Bolsheviks to take control by the end of the year and establish bloody, totalitarian regime that would last for another seven-plus decades.