The Angle

The Angle: American Fascism and Beatlemania Edition

Slate’s daily newsletter on Cruz’s conservative nostalgia, Trump’s 21st-century authoritarianism, and John Lennon’s xenophobia.

Donald Trump
Well of course it looks big if you hold it up close to the camera like that.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Hello! Rebecca Onion will return Monday—but until then I am Gabriel Roth, here to highlight the sharpest pieces from Slate and around the Web.

It’s been 50 years since John Lennon set off a national outrage when he told an interviewer that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” Ruth Graham goes back to that interview and finds a Fab Four we might not recognize, “settled into posh suburban homes stuffed with toys and collectibles and unread leather-bound books”—and making racist and xenophobic remarks that today feel infinitely more shocking than the Jesus comparison.

Slate chief Jacob Weisberg takes a look at the particular flavor of Donald Trump’s politics, and finds that comparisons to fascism, though not misplaced, miss what makes Trump distinctive. “Trump does not draw on traditions of European totalitarianism or even appear to know anything about them,” Weisberg writes. “Rather, Trump represents what autocratic attitudes look like in a modern American context. … He bullies those who resist him in the contemporary vernacular of American celebrity culture.” (This month, Weisberg joins Laura Miller for our Slate Academy book club, A Year of Great Books. You can vote on what they should read by signing up for Slate Plus.)

Ted Cruz is a staunch conservative, a skilled debater, and an outsider in a year when Republican voters have rejected the party establishment. So why has his primary campaign struggled? Reihan Salam thinks the problem is that Cruz’s Reaganite rhetoric is out of date. “It’s easy to understand why Cruz’s conservative nostalgia might appeal to older GOP primary voters, who remember the Reagan era as the prime of their lives,” Salam writes. “But the world has changed a lot since the Gipper left office. … Rubio has made an attempt to adapt to this landscape, and to speak to the challenges it raises. His attempt has been imperfect to say the least, but he has at least made an attempt. Cruz hasn’t done the same.”

Hillary Clinton’s policy proposals have been drowned out by the Republican campaign and the Bernie Sanders movement, but they’re highly progressive—especially her tax plan, argues Jordan Weissmann. “There was a time before a certain septuagenarian hit the scene where things like a new multimillionaire’s tax would have sounded like a Democratic dream,” Weissmann points out. “Now it’s just orthodoxy.”

Everyone knows that Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement, Helaine Olen writes. So why aren’t we doing anything about it? “Even as expert after expert stresses the importance of saving for retirement,” Olen points out, “the percentage of prime-working-age families putting money aside in any type of retirement plan fell from 60 percent in 2000 to 53 percent in 2013.” And yet, apart from Bernie Sanders’ plan to expand Social Security benefits, the retirement crisis is playing almost no role in the presidential campaign.

For fun: Listen to the amazing Wintergatan Marble Machine.

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