The Corner

Re: #POTUS and the Culture

I am grateful to both Stanley and Yuval for their kind reviews of my book (as well as to Kathryn and John for their interview and podcast, respectively). I wanted to respond to, but certainly not rebut, their posts. Yuval writes that “it is hard to leave his book without a sense that the long trajectory of our cultural history points downward.” I do consider myself an optimist, trained by the professional optimist Ben Wattenberg (who trained Jonah as well), but it is hard to disagree with Yuval’s observation. While the proliferation of new technologies in and of itself is a good thing, the offerings available on these technologies are not always admirable, and presidents do not always make the best choices from among the available selections. As to Stanley’s point about Republicans’ surprising ability to “handle the challenge of a popular culture at odds with their party,” that may be so, but there is also little doubt that Republicans need to do better on the cultural connectedness front than they have done in the last two presidential elections. I lay out rules for candidates who wish to engage with popular culture in the appendix to my book, and I recommend that the 2016 candidates — and their handlers — check out those rules before trying out some nifty current movie quotes on the stump. Again, I thank Stanley and Yuval for their thoughts, and look forward to future conversations about the impact of pop culture on our presidents.

Tevi Troy is a presidential historian and former White House aide.

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