Sunday Pages: PREVAIL News & Notes

Plus: words of wisdom from Lucille Bluth.

Dear Reader,

If you caught Friday night’s Narativ Live After Show, you know that I hit a bit of a wall this week. Mentally, emotionally, I am that ship stuck in the Suez Canal. That’s how I was feeling, anyway, until I let loose on Zev’s program. I’m okay now. Rants are healing. So is Tito’s on ice with fresh-squeezed lemon and San Pellegrino.

I wasn’t the only one having a rough week. And I think I finally understand why. On some level, I thought that when Donald John Trump was gone, things would get better. And so they have. But as toxic as he was (and is), he wasn’t the problem. Not really. He was merely the public face of something darker, deeper, and more insidious. He is the chancre, the unsightly sore on the glans, but his removal does nothing to treat the late-stage syphilis that has infected the body politic—and driven so many Americans mad.

The GOP has become an actively authoritarian party, hellbent on annihilating the American experiment. The Republicans of Lincoln and Grant, of TR and Eisenhower—of Reagan and Poppy Bush, even—are lost and gone forever. What remains are the enemies of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We must either destroy that hateful husk of a party, or it will destroy democracy.

That is such a daunting task, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Deep down, I’ve known this, of course. But I think that this week, probably because of the Jim Crow tyranny in Georgia, it finally caught up to me.

Not that I’m going anywhere. I’m in this for the long haul. But to be here for the long haul, I have to prepare for the long haul. Which brings us to news and notes about PREVAIL:

First, and I can’t stress this enough, your feedback is very important to me. Unless Gmail or Twitter contrives to conceal correspondence from my sight—I blame the Russians when that happens—I read every comment, every email, and every Twitter mention. It’s my intent to reply to everything. Often the reply is a simple check of the “heart” button, which always feels inadequate to the comment, but is, as the emoji suggests, heartfelt. Sometimes things fall through the cracks, and I fail to respond appropriately. Please know that I never take your engagement for granted, and I appreciate every note I get. (Well, almost every note; the rando who called me unprofessional and a bad writer because the fourth Kavanaugh email was too long to open properly in his email browser—that dude can ride the Sybian machine forever, if you catch my drift.)

Second, Substack revamped some of its features, and I am just now seeing notes that readers left me when they stopped subscribing. (In the parlance of Substack, “subscribers” are those readers who pay for the subscription). Almost all of them stopped because money was tight. Please know that I understand. I am incredibly grateful to everyone who subscribes to PREVAIL. That generosity allows me to invest more of my time and energy in the work, and also to pay the other writers who contribute to the site. Your sponsorship has helped me and my family enormously. Thank you. And with that said, I never hold it against anyone who doesn’t subscribe, especially for financial reasons. My work here is free for all to read, just as the podcast is free for all to listen to. The generous support of my readers makes that possible.

Speaking of Substack, the platform was in the news a few weeks ago, when one of its users wrote a post criticizing the company for giving platforms to the likes of Glenn Greenwald, and also for allegedly luring some big-name writers to the site with hefty signing bonuses. None of this bothers me. I hold with what my man Eric Boehlert, another Substack user, said: As a writer, Substack is the best thing that ever happened to me. (Nevertheless: Hamish, if you’re reading this, I wouldn’t object to some sweet, sweet signing bonus money!).

As you are hopefully aware, the PREVAIL podcast launched six weeks ago. I’m in the middle of a two-week stretch where I’m recording interviews for future episodes. I’m a much better writer than I am an interviewer, without question, but I think I’m improving, and it’s been enlightening to talk to such smart, interesting guests. Plus it’s been fun to do my impressions.

I know there are folks who would rather read a column than listen to a podcast (full disclosure: I’m one of those people). There are just as many, if not more, folks who prefer to listen than to read, because you can listen while driving, exercising, and doing housework.

The reality is that it’s unsustainable for me to crank out two long pieces every week, an unrelated podcast on Thursday, and a “Sunday Pages” on the weekend. Ultimately the work will suffer, and I can’t allow that. Also, four emails a week is probably more than your inbox requires. Going forward, then, I’m tweaking the format slightly. Tuesday will be the day for the long, deep-dive, analytical pieces. The podcast will now drop on Friday, not Thursday, and Friday’s piece will be about what’s covered in that week’s podcast. It may include a partial transcript. It may include supplemental coverage. I’m not exactly sure yet, and it will depend on the week, the news, and the guests. But the Friday piece will still operate as a stand-alone dispatch, for readers who eschew podcasts (looking at you, Cal!). “Sunday Pages” will continue as usual.

Thanks for your support and your patience as I figure all of this out. I leave you with these words of wisdom from Lucille Bluth, the Arrested Development matriarch, played by the sublime Jessica Walter, who died this week at 80: “If that’s a veiled criticism about me…I won’t hear it and I won’t respond to it.” Words to live by!

RIP, Ms. Walter. You will be missed.


Photo credits: Ship stuck in Suez Canal via Wikipedia; the late Jessica Walter as Lucille Bluth.