TIME 2016 Election

What Donald Trump Doesn’t Explain About America

Donald Trump during a news conference ahead of a rally in Dubuque, Iowa on Aug. 25, 2015.
Daniel Acker—Bloomberg via Getty Images Donald Trump during a news conference ahead of a rally in Dubuque, Iowa on Aug. 25, 2015.

Jack Dickey is a reporter for TIME focused on culture and sports. He is also a contributor to Sports Illustrated.

To worry too much over Trump's alleged rise is to undersell the good work his omnipresence has inadvertently done

A bundle of political-journalism concerns (including this magazine) have in recent weeks dwelled on the apparent rise of Donald Trump, the political novice who has found himself atop several polls for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The reasoning is simple enough: Trump, the thinking goes, has offended enough people on the campaign trail (and carries enough baggage from 30 years in the public eye) that his bid should have long ago lost whatever pulse it had; that he has, if anything, gained support surely signals an American irrationality worth investigating.

Do these analyses spend our time wisely? FiveThirtyEight says they don’t, with the first primary not until January, and with talking on the phone to a pollster having little in common with going to a voting booth. To wit: In August 2011, Michele Bachmann led in Iowa; she would finish sixth in the January caucuses. For its part, the Upshot contends that Trump’s polling lead is weakest (although still extant) among Republicans who have a history of actually voting in recent primaries. There’s reason beyond those metrics to doubt the significance of the Trump surge. He’s a bona fide celebrity in an awfully crowded field, giving him a natural but temporary advantage. When the herd thins and the runners-up of today find themselves with more airtime, Trump’s ubiquity will seem less imposing. In 1992, Pat Buchanan, whose platform looked a little like Trump’s, managed his strongest showing of all in the first primary, never matching the 38 percent he had in New Hampshire.

Then again, it’s dreary August, and, what—we’re supposed to fixate on baseball, when the greatest show on earth is on tour? The best way to experience the Trump 2016 campaign is to let it wash over you: to appreciate the silk ties, self-aggrandizing non sequiturs (“I have one of the great memories of all time,” he told The Hollywood Reporter) and celebrity feuds he still can’t put aside as a signature American grotesquerie—perhaps, indeed, one of the greatest of all time. Even if you find his scattershot positions or boorishness too noxious for amusement, you can change the channel or click over to another browser tab, reassured, with the Republican convention 11 months away, of just how little is at stake this summer, and how little his so-called support matters. (Though taking true under-one’s-skin offense at anything Trump says or does may give him too much credit.)

Truly analyzing Trump goes beyond the mere rubbernecking I just advocated, and it’s a tricky practice. The impulse that prompts such investigation is surely a good one—it treats, somewhat optimistically, the political process as an essentially pure expression of the people’s will. It declines to disregard opinion polls. The words of the humble rally-attender take on great importance in this world, while the elites for once have to pipe down and listen.

What, though, if the views a citizen (not even a voter, because no voting has happened yet) holds are insincere or likely to change? What if the rallies’ vox populi are simply a playback of what’s on cable news? What if he’s refreshing to voters the same way a bucket of ice a would be—on the ground in a hot second, melted in half an hour, and evaporated by nightfall? It would be shortsighted and futile here in August to let a celebrity entrepreneur tell us anything ostensibly meaningful about our national character, not least because there’s little reason to think those conclusions might be true.

But that hasn’t seemed to stop the presses. Far from it, to judge by among other works a feature in this week’s New Yorker. The magazine embeds with, chronicles and conflates two bands of Trump supporters (disaffected conservatives and white supremacists), never mind that they’re entirely distinct in size and motivation, to argue that Trump has illuminated and, worse, strengthened a long-dormant strain of American nativism. This view relies on that most liberal-arts stand-by—close reading—to tie Trump to the paranoid style identified long ago by Richard Hofstadter. Most felicitously for its premise, white nationalists come to endorse Trump’s campaign (so has David Duke), and one watching the debate in Cincinnati suggests Trump is actually dog-whistling to them. I don’t immediately comprehend how someone so relentlessly blunt could be perceived as a dog-whistler—it’s as though the metaphor was deployed by someone (say, an avowed white supremacist) whom a reader might suspect to be irrational.

How rewarding can close-reading Trump possibly be? He toggles between the impossibly vague (“Trade? We’re gonna fix it. Healthcare? We’re gonna fix it. Women’s health issues? We’re gonna fix it.”) and the especially literal (not only has he insisted he will build a wall along the entire border with Mexico, and that Mexico will pay for it, but he has said “I want it to be so beautiful because maybe someday they’re going to call it the Trump wall”). He said of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” What is hiding under that?

The fact that Trump spends more time in the hippy-dippy, rah-rah, make-our-country-great-again character than in Joe Arpaio mode would suggest, too, that a lot resonates with his supposed supporters before they even begin to consider his immigration stance. As one told focus-grouper Frank Luntz, “We know his goal is to make America great again. It’s on his hat.” Behold, yet another radicalized American.

If Trump has done anything even semi-permanent—if he has done anything at all—he has disrupted the campaign choreography designed long ago and implemented anew each election cycle by the immovable professional political class and the shadowy donors who pay their salaries. He has haphazardly but valuably spoken about the toxicity of money in politics—a protest worth staging now more than ever.

To fret too much over Trump’s alleged rise, and even pathologize it, is to undersell the good work his omnipresence has done, however inadvertently, in undermining a broken political system. The great challenge ahead, to be sure, comes in rebuilding it. Anyone know a good builder?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.


Growing Up Trump

Eric Trump, Lara Yunaska, Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Vanessa Haydon, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Tiffany Trump, Kai Trump, Donald Trump III
Richard Drew—AP June 16, 2015. From left are: son Eric Trump, with his wife Lara Yunaska; Donald Trump's son Barron Trump, wife Melania Trump; Vanessa Haydon and her husband Donald Trump Jr.; daughter Ivanka Trump with her husband Jared Kushner; daughter Tiffany Trump. In the front row are Kai Trump and Donald Trump III, children of Donald Trump Jr.

Will Donald’s campaign risk his children’s good fortune?

Twenty-five years ago, Donald Trump had already achieved no small measure of success. His unmistakable buildings speckled the sprawls of Manhattan and Atlantic City. He owned an airline. He vacationed on a 282-foot yacht, the Trump Princess. He was likely worth $1 billion. Maybe $3 billion.

So what did the high-flying dealmaker think of his kids’ prospects for the future? “Statistically, my children have a very bad shot,” Trump told Playboy in 1990. “Children of successful people are generally very, very troubled, not successful. They don’t have the right shtick.”

Presidential campaigns aren’t just a test for candidates but for families too. Just ask Bill Clinton or Columba Bush. As Trump’s “right shtick” has vaulted the reality-television host to the tops of early Republican primary polls, a new challenge faces a clan that’s already seen its fair share of them.

After surviving their parents’ divorce, endless tabloid attention and what they have described themselves as an absentee father, the Trump children have entered the latest chapter of what has been an upbringing unlike any other. Now in this summer of Trump, their father’s campaign-trail antics are testing their peculiar inheritance like little before.

DEAL MAKERS Given their father’s reputation for bluster and braggadocio, the three adult Trump scions—Donald Jr., age 37; Ivanka, age 33; Eric, age 31—have a habit of surprising people. People who know them say they can be down-to-earth and easy-going, descriptors that would not apply to their father unless he was trying to close a deal. They lack his hunger for publicity for its own sake and his flair for the outrageous.

They work for their father as executive vice presidents of development and acquisition. (Trump also has two younger children, one each by his second and third wives.) As for their specializations: Don Jr. manages the existing property portfolio, Ivanka oversees the family’s hotels, and Eric manages the family’s golf assets. The Trump Organization has a reported 22,000 employees, with nine luxury hotels, 17 golf courses and 18 luxury residential properties worldwide. The company also makes millions from extensive licensing deals on real-estate developments it does not own or manage.

“To be honest,” says Richard Huckestein, a principal in T&G Constructors’ Miami office who served as a project executive on the Trump renovation of the Doral Golf Resort and Spa, as though preparing to break bad news, “I really like Eric. I didn’t know anything about the family other than what I read about them beforehand. But they were straight shooters and honest.”

“Ivanka is very smart and meticulous. She’d be successful anywhere in New York,” says Michael Ashner, whose Winthrop Realty Trust sold the Trumps Doral for $170 million in 2011. “In a room full of testosterone, she can keep her cool.”

People who have worked with Trump’s children say that they handle the details of many of the company’s deals and projects. (A representative for the Trump organization declined on behalf of the children to participate in this story.) The Trumps—both this generation and their father—are said to be more hands-on than many developers, weighing in on design and construction matters that others might delegate.

“As negotiators, the boys are very fair, very ethical. They make a deal on a handshake and they stick to it,” says Jeff Lichtenberg, an executive vice president at Cushman and Wakefield who works as a leasing agent for the Trumps and is especially close with Don and Eric.

RAISING THEMSELVES Growing up a Trump was tumultuous even by the standards of the truly wealthy. Donald and Ivana’s marriage had fascinated the tabloids even when it was intact. (To wit: Her broken-English coinage “the Donald” has outlasted much of the so-called popular culture of the 1980s.)

“I look at my brothers and myself and I’m, like, really proud of the fact that nobody’s, like, totally f–ked-up,” Ivanka told an interviewer in 2007. “Nobody’s a drug addict, nobody’s driving around chasing women, snorting coke. There’s something amazing about that. And you know, this isn’t to pat myself on the back, but I could be a lot worse.”

Neither parent was especially present. The kids grew up in the close company of nannies and security guards who worked for the family. Ivana’s parents lived with them when they were young; the boys’ interest in hunting and fishing came from grandfather Milos. (In 2011, Donald and Eric went trophy hunting in Zimbabwe, killing an elephant and cheetah among other large animals and facing scorn from the press upon the photos’ surfacing.)

“My father is a very hardworking guy, and that’s his focus in life, so I got a lot of the paternal attention that a boy wants and needs from my grandfather,” Donald Jr. told a reporter in 2004.

In the same story, Trump Sr. said, “I’m a really good father, but not a really good husband. You’ve probably figured out my children really like me—love me—a lot. … The hardest thing for me about raising kids has been finding the time. I know friends who leave their business so they can spend more time with their children, and I say, ‘Gimme a break!’ My children could not love me more if I spent 15 times more time with them.”

“Donnie’s always been my friend, a mentor,” Eric Trump said of his older brother in 2006. “In a way, he raised me. My father, I love and I appreciate, but he always worked 24 hours a day.”

When, in 1990, after 12 years of marriage, Donald and Ivana’s union came apart—precipitated in part by a skirmish between Ivana and Trump’s new flame, Marla Maples, on the Aspen slopes—then the vultures really flocked. The Daily News‘s Liz Smith had the inside story of Ivana’s broken heart; the Post had Maples boasting “Best Sex I Ever Had.” The story ruled the headlines for three months. Donald Jr., who was 12 at the time of the divorce, told New York: “You’re not quite a man, but you think you are. You think you know everything. Being driven into school every day and you see the front page and it’s divorce! THE BEST SEX I EVER HAD! And you don’t even know what that means. At that age, kids are naturally cruel.”

All three would eventually enroll in boarding school—the boys at Pennsylvania’s Hill School and Ivanka at Choate, in Connecticut—where they were largely sequestered from the family’s fortune and notoriety. Donald Jr. would afterward attend the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, as would Ivanka (she graduated cum laude) after spending two years at Georgetown, the school from which Eric would graduate.

Growing up, they did odd jobs for their father’s businesses—Don, for instance, as an attendant at the docks at the former Trump Marina in Atlantic City—to earn pocket money. “We were spoiled in many ways, but we were always taught to understand the value of the dollar,” Don Jr. once said.

And even though Don Jr. went through a rowdy phase in college, drinking to excess and starting fights, he said that the life of a trust-fund kid wasn’t for him. He spent a year in Aspen and gave it up. “I had a great time, but your brain starts to atrophy. It just wasn’t enough for me.”

FAMILY DEALS “I knew my children were competent. I just never knew they were this competent,” the eldest Trump said in 2007, before he had handed off so many operational responsibilities to the three.

Apart from their Trump Organization duties, all three have built up genuine side gigs. Eric Trump runs Trump Winery, the Charlottesville vineyard that once belonged to billionaire heiress Patricia Kluge, and a foundation that has pledged millions to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Donald Jr. hosts a syndicated business TV show. And Ivanka has had perhaps the most success spinning the family brand into her own—she has released jewelry, shoe and clothing lines and publishes a lifestyle website.

Ivanka sprung on the scene before her brothers. She modeled as a teenager, covering Seventeen (at age 15, but who’s counting?) in 1997. All three would become more prominent thanks to the success of The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice, on which they appeared regularly.

Although the eldest Trump did not arrange his children’s marriages, it wasn’t for lack of trying. Trump once said, “Ivanka is a great, great beauty. Every guy in the country wants to go out with my daughter.” He later said, “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” And in 2006, Vanessa, the model who is now married to Donald Jr., recalled how the couple first met. “I’m at this fashion show. Donald Trump comes up to me with his son: ‘Hi, I’m Donald Trump. I wanted to introduce you to my son Donald Trump Jr.'” At intermission, the Trumps, to Vanessa’s surprise, returned. “Donald comes back up to me again, ‘I don’t think you’ve met my son Donald Trump Jr.” The pair reencountered one another, for good, at a party months later.

Ivanka’s marriage, for all the money involved, seems quite domestic. She has two young children, whose photos she posts lovingly online. For her husband Jared Kushner, another scion of a New York real estate family, she converted to Judaism, and she keeps kosher and observes the Sabbath. (The pair have contributed extensively in the past to Democratic candidates.) “Jared and Ivanka are centered in a more low-key, contemporary, family way,” said Don Jr. in February, when asked to compare the Kushner-Trumps to his parents.

But she’s still her father’s daughter. According to Vogue, the pair were set up by friends who thought they could do deals together. Ivanka says now, “Whenever we see them, we’re like, ‘The best deal we ever made!'”

A GOOD NAME As for their father’s campaign, the boys seem to dig it. They joined their dad for his campaign kickoff speech in the atrium of Manhattan’s Trump Tower on June 16. They flew with their father to Cleveland aboard Trump’s Boeing 757 to watch their father debate the nine men trailing him in the Republican field. Ivanka, while present for the announcement and the debate, is reportedly a little less enthusiastic. A report on New York‘s website said that she had drafted a statement in which her father would walk back some of his comments about immigration but he had declined to release it.

While the usual concern for a presidential candidate’s family is how greater fame and scrutiny might shake up their lives, that’s probably not what vexes the Trump family. One wonders instead whether an unscripted and sour remark from the patriarch could make his properties less palatable to those in the market for luxury. Already this summer, a number of companies have backed away from the Trump brand. Every week Trump stays high in the polls is another chance for him to upset a different constituency and blemish the name that will someday just belong to his children.

Then again, maybe the family can survive anything. In a statement to Travel and Leisure, Donald Jr. said that the hotels were having a good year. As their father once said about the name Trump, “It’s German in derivation. Nobody really knows where it came from. It’s very unusual, but it just is a good name to have.”


38 Things Americans Say They’ve Found in a Hot Dog

The All-American Hot Dog 1972
Ralph Morse—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images Girl eating a hot dog, 1972.

A look at public records provides a window into how America's favored sausage gets made

We’re in the meat of hot dog season, the sweet sweaty weeks from Memorial Day to Labor Day, when Americans consume consume 7 billion wieners. That is 21 per person, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. Sure, we all know that hot-dog ingredients aren’t always the choicest. But there are those very rare occasions, as with almost any food produced in such massive numbers, when something appears inside the bun that even the most zealous hot-dog lover could never find palatable. A TIME request to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (yes, the Freedom of Information Act covers encased meats) showed that 38 consumers have reported finding foreign objects in their hot dogs and contacted the feds to complain.

That’s a very small number—think of the billions of hot dogs that peaceably find their way onto our grills —but together the reports provide a window into how America’s sausage gets made. In their wieners Americans reported finding, among other things: “a large ant,” “a peppercorn like material…that appeared to be metal shavings,” “a clump of hair (looks like eyelashes),” “a needle resembling an injection needle,” “a sheared off portion of a metal box cutter,” “a dime,” “a white hex nut” and “a pill.”

“I put a hot dog in the microwave for my toddler and while warming it started sparking and smoking which I thought was weird,” a complaint for 2014 reads, “but took it out and looked at it and didn’t see anything wrong so went ahead and gave it to him. After eating it he kept picking at his teeth and when I looked he had a piece of metal stuck between his teeth.”

“Caller found a large silverfish inside package of hot dogs,” a food safety official noted in a 2015 report. “…Caller owns a food manufacturing business and is therefore familiar with processing and packaging and is concerned that if a large silverfish could be packaged with the hotdogs the plant must have an infestation.”

Janet Riley, the president of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council and self-dubbed “Queen of Wien,” says, “We sure do what we can to avoid any kind of foreign object in there, and the records suggest that we do a really good job considering the numbers we produce. What’s on the label is what you’re going to find in the product.” Among USDA product recalls, hot dog recalls are relatively rare, and inspectors watch plants closely.

Hot dog integrity appears to have improved since 1999, when the Wall Street Journal reported on what had been, by its estimation, “the wiener’s worst year ever.” Mass-market hot dogs were recalled in spades and blamed by the Centers for Disease Control for listeria poisoning. The Journal reported that Sara Lee, the manufacturer of the popular Ball Park Franks brand, had five foreign-object complaints against it from the start of 1997 until mid-1999. Flash forward and American consumers have filed just one foreign-object complaint concerning Ball Park Franks from the start of 2013 through Feb. 2015.

Still, according to the federal records, 38 Americans claim not to have been so fortunate. “A piece of rubber band (blue),” “what looks like insect larva,” “tiny hard white pieces of plastic about 2-3 mm long,” “a clump of hair or something ratlike,” “the tip of a razor blade,” “sharp metal,” “glass shards,” “a long piece of blue plastic, like very thick plastic wrap,” “a piece of bone, hard, jagged,” “a 3 in. long piece of something, “a metal wire,” “glass and potential mercury,” “a crown,” “a metal staple,” “a metal shard,” “a large piece of bone,” “plastic,” “piece of rubber,” “huge chip of bone,” “huge amount of shredded plastic,” “a metal object… seemed like it was sharpened,” “piece of bone measuring 1 in. by 3/4 of an inch,” “piece of metal… the size of 2 or 3 grains of sand,” “metal button shaped like a sharp object,” “a bug,” “a sharp hard object,” “two hairs… one was short, black and could have been facial hair. The second hair was thinner and was actually sticking out of the hot dog.” Reported one caller: “The hot dog appeared to be written on with a black magic marker with the letter ‘T’.”

Most hot dogs are made of the same beef or pork or poultry one would buy elsewhere in the supermarket meat aisle. Well, OK, that familiar meat, but spiced and blended with ice chips into a batter and then stuffed into casings and cooked and then peeled and often packed in plastic with sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite as a preservative. Also occasionally with fat, water, dry milk, cereal or isolated soy protein added, all of it permissible under U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations. So at least 54.5 percent of the hot dog must be meat. And those are the ones that pass USDA mustard. Er, muster.

A national pastime
While now as American as baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet, the hot dog is in fact a foreign object. In Germany, they have been slinging sausage since at least the fourteenth century, many centuries before Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker set up his eventually famous nickel hot dog stand on Coney Island in 1916. (On Friday, Famous Nathan, a documentary of Handwerker’s life created by his grandson Lloyd Handwerker, was released in movie theaters.) The German immigrants who landed in America in the middle of the nineteenth century brought their sausages with them, says Bruce Kraig, hot-dog historian and the author of Man Bites Dog: Hot Dog Culture in America. And a still-young nation that liked its food cheap, hot, fast and meaty went about making the sausage its own. Chicagoans cast their lot with mustard, onions, relish and a host of other toppings. Michiganders went with the chili-and-onion covered Coney Dog. New Yorkers more often served them with merely mustard.

The hot dog was also, Kraig says, the first-ever American food with a real relationship to leisure. They were the food of Coney Island, of Chicago’s Riverview Park, of the Jersey Shore—and of baseball, the new national pastime.

Americans loved their hot dogs. But they rarely bothered to sweat what might be in them. The name “hot dog” came from a running joke among Yale students in the 1890s that the sausages they loved so much might contain dog meat among the tasty butchers’ scraps. “That’s American humor for you. Mordant and wry,” Kraig says.

But the supermarket hot dogs we know now have little in common with the local, butcher-made hot dogs of the late nineteenth century. It would take the development of major meatpacking factories in Chicago and of new preservation and refrigeration technologies to clear the way for the mass-produced hot dog. (One such Windy City factory, the Armour Meat Packing Plant, worked like this, Kraig says: Cows would enter on the top floor for slaughter. Then their carcasses would make their way through the factory, and workers would carve off special cuts as directed. By the time the carcasses reached the bottom of the building, the beefy oddities that remained were fit for hot dogs.) The mass-produced hot dog arrived hand-in-hand with the magic of advertising. Chicago, after all, built not only America’s meatpacking plants but the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile in 1936.

Indeed, the story of the hot dog contains the stories of so many things we as Americans hold dear—of recreation (of baseball!), of industry, of intense regional difference, of transcendent marketing, of cheerful insouciance in the face of troubling whispers. So if you should find yourself nearby a friend’s grill before summer’s end, with a hot dog in your hand, know that, as you prepare to bite into it, as you sniff its barely peppery aroma, you will soon be sinking your teeth into this beautiful and brilliant nation itself. And maybe a razor blade too. Hopefully not. Eat up!

Jacob Koffler contributed reporting to this story.

TIME Music

How a 25-Year-Old Blogger Took Down Apple

Lots of 25-year-olds write blog posts. One would have to imagine the incidence is even more pronounced among 25-year-old creative types, who have not yet been ground into submission by the machinery that makes the American culture industry levitate and whirr. It’s exceedingly rare that one of those blog posts accomplishes anything, except perhaps a phone call from a parent who wants the author to give law school another shot.

It’s exceedingly surprising, when the proper nouns are stripped away, that a 25-year-old’s blog post—on a Sunday—could compel Apple, the world’s most valuable company (by market cap), to change course later that day on an already-announced major consumer product, one that had presumably occasioned dozens of previous meetings and strategy sessions and chin-stroking over the product’s peculiarities.

But this is a story about Taylor Swift, who was already before Sunday the biggest thing going in popular music and is now manifesting herself as something even bigger, a singular commercial powerhouse with the strength and resolve to fight the continued devaluation of recorded music—and to get things done.

The brouhaha began when Apple announced on June 8 that it would launch its own streaming music service, one with the presumable aim of eating into the 60 million users Spotify says it has. Apple Music even announced its price as $9.99 per month, the same figure Spotify charges for its premium subscriptions.

Spotify has, after all, been the subject of intense criticism from artists and labels about its comparatively meager royalty payments. After Swift yanked her music off Spotify in November, her record label told TIME that over the prior 12 months it had been paid less than $500,000 for domestic streaming of Swift’s music, despite her status as one of the service’s most popular artists. (Spotify, for its part, said Swift’s payout for global streaming, including in the U.S., had been $2 million over that period.)

What Swift and others have reasoned is that any music service which offers a free, ad-supported option, as Spotify does, cannot offer them a worthwhile fee for their recordings. (Country singer Rosanne Cash said in September her songs were streamed 600,000 times over an 18-month period—and she received $104.)

Apple’s service has no such option. But its launch would come with three free trial months of service—months during which it would not compensate labels for the music it streamed. Hence Swift’s ire (and others’), and the singer’s Tumblr post, “To Apple, Love Taylor,” on Sunday morning. By nightfall, Eddy Cue, Apple’s media chief, had announced on Twitter that the company would reverse course and pay artists out of its own pocket (deep, incidentally, as the Marianas Trench, which makes you wonder why Apple didn’t think to pay in the first place). Cue told Billboard on Sunday, “When I woke up this morning and saw what Taylor had written, it really solidified that we needed to make a change.” He said he called Swift directly to tell her the news.

There’s a rich tradition of mass-media artists fighting the corporate interests in their workplaces, from the founding of Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin’s United Artists in 1919 all the way to Louis CK self-releasing standup specials in recent years. But even in that context Swift’s evangelism stands out. One imagines no other artist could mobilize a fan base like hers—nursed as it has been on free, on-demand content (whether music, video, or, yes, journalism) and accordingly addled—to pressure Apple. But there they were, earning their tribute, in Swift’s victory tweet early Monday morning: “I am elated and relieved. Thank you for your words of support today. They listened to us.”

Swift has benefited from a cultural change—many millennials are more sympathetic to corporations than their predecessors might have been. Her listeners came of age, prevailingly, in the era of free or cheap music—not one in which a teenager might have to shell out two to three weeks’ allowance to buy a CD with one or two worthwhile songs. Today, labels look to music fans like champions for beleaguered artists rather than uncreative conglomerates hellbent on ripping fans off. And her fans look to Apple as an artist-supporting American triumph capable of doing better, rather than, say, an income-tax dodger responsible for Foxconn.

Funny, or not-so-funny, enough, the Apple Music service and several music labels are under investigation by two state attorneys general for anticompetitive practices—namely, are they colluding to crush Spotify? Apple was in similar straits two years ago when a federal judge ruled that it had colluded with book publishers against Amazon to fix e-book prices; the company agreed last year to a $450 million settlement. (For whatever it’s worth: recent history delivers a withering critique of the businesses of content creation and distribution built prior to the great digital disruption. That is, if the only way to restore their past margins is to run afoul of regulators.) Whatever happens, Apple will be fine and Taylor Swift will be fine. The class imperiled, as it has been since the music industry began to shrink, is (as Swift put it) ” the new artist or band … the young songwriter … the producer who works tirelessly,” not to mention the rank-and-file at the record label.

Swift has cast her lot with them, and she has cajoled Apple into taking baby steps toward the same, which is a feat. Swift is not only the sole artist who can make a mass audience pay full freight today for its listening choices; she’s the only one who can make it feel altruistic while doing so. That’s big. She has distinguished herself as a leader, even if she has yet to broaden her aperture beyond areas of self-interest. I, for one, can’t wait until this young blogger finds out what’s happened to the journalism business.

READ MORE: “The Power of Taylor Swift,” TIME’s Nov. 2014 cover story

TIME Books

How To Survive 13,000 Album Reviews

Harper Collins

Robert Christgau, the self-appointed Dean of American Rock Critics, has just published a memoir of his life in the downtown music scene, Going into the City. 'It's very unlikely that there'll ever be anybody like me again,' he says

The whole class of NYU sophomores had arrived on time, ready for discussion with notebooks and pens and perhaps a little less ready for the compulsory quiz on the week’s assigned readings. The professor, a white-haired man with a slight bend at the waist, read a dozen questions aloud, repeating each one to help the panicked. For extra-credit, to aid the beleaguered types, he asked this one:

“Complete the line—and, please, pardon my flow: ‘And all you other cats throwin’ shots at Jigga, you only get half a bar…’ What comes next?” He repeats the question, and his smile broadens. “You know, I’ve always thought that was one of his best couplets.”

If I had a nickel for every time a 72-year-old professor encouraged me to write “f-ck y’all n—-s” on my sheet and turn it in, I’d be dead broke. As anyone would be, for what it’s worth, if he or she set out today to become a rock critic. Survival, though, is a peculiar thing, and Robert Christgau, the self-appointed Dean of American Rock Critics, is a peculiar survivor if ever there were one.

While every American mass-culture critic of recent inauguration wanted to be like Roger Ebert (personal and powerful), most of them wanted to write like Robert Christgau. He’s ferocious, frustrating and funny, miraculously compact while deploying looooong sentences. He worked at the Village Voice, a generation’s hip tipsheet, from 1969 until 2006, primarily as music editor. Some readers would use the back pages of the Voice to get their rocks off; another, smaller group needed only his music section. He’s the critic’s critic.

More than that, he’s the only one of the bunch who originated his discipline who’s still scrapping at it. Lester Bangs and Ellen Willis have passed; Jon Landau became a Springsteen-abetted music-biz macher; Greil Marcus has ascended to a higher plane of professional practice. Which leaves a whole generation of critics in Christgau’s debt, even as they work alongside him. He cleared the way for the appreciation of pop on its sonic merits alone, and for the only-somewhat-tongue-in-cheek (but exceedingly practical) process of slapping a letter grade on Art.

If this were a Christgau review—and there is something to review here, Going into the City, Christgau’s memoir and debut full-length book, published Tuesday—it would have ended 200 words ago with an idiomatic yet scholarly rapture or kiss-off and a letter grade. Like he did for Prince’s Dirty Mind in 1980: “Mick Jagger should fold up his penis and go home. A.” Or for Talking Heads’ 1980 Remain in Light the same year: “Second side celebrates a young terrorist and recalls John Cale in his spookiest pregeopolitical mode but also begins at the beginning: with ‘Once in a Lifetime,’ the greatest song Byrne will ever write. It’s about the secret of life, which even a woman’s hips can’t encompass. A.” Or for Guns N’ Roses’ G N’ R Lies in 1988: “‘Back when they hit the racks, these posers talked a lot of guff about suicide. I’m still betting they don’t have it in them to jump. E.”

Christgau calls this his Consumer Guide, so named “to razz a counterculture that considered consumption counterrevolutionary and didn’t like grades either.” By his count he’s undertaken nearly this exact mission for between thirteen and fourteen thousand records, with about three thousand others earning judgments that don’t quite meet the “review” threshold. His list of A+ albums covers everything from the Beach Boys to DeBarge; the most recognized artists are Sonny Rollins and the New York Dolls. His top five artists, Christgau once told Salon: Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Chuck Berry, the Beatles and the Dolls. Hard to knock his catholicness.

A little easier to knock the oeuvre, though, given the certitude and bite of each capsule review. Countless online spaces provide scornful analysis of why Christgau stinks; this is what happens if he doesn’t grok your fave act or genre. Or, as Sonic Youth’s “Kill Yr Idols” (later briefly renamed “I Killed Christgau With My Big F-cking D-ck”) put it: “I don’t know why//you wanna impress Christgau//let that sh-t die//and find out the new goal.” The critic responds, broadly, in the memoir’s introduction: “To the eternal ‘Opinions are like assholes—everybody’s got one,’ I just say, ‘Yeah, but not everybody’s got ten thousand of them.’ It distresses me that the wit of this riposte so often fails to impress the asshole I’m talking to.” Least he’s honest.

We were talking, though, about surviving. Christgau’s new memoir belongs to a class of recent good downtown-culture-scene-in-the-60s-and-70s books, written by survivors of the cull that followed. There’s Patti Smith’s Just Kids (won the National Book Award), Ed Sanders’ Fug You, James Wolcott’s Lucking Out, Richard Hell’s I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, and others still. I say survivors because Smith lives, and so does Hell, but Robert Mapplethorpe and Lou Reed and Hilly Kristal and Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Tommy are all dead. It ain’t easy to miss how these books have piled up as the neighborhoods, characters and scenes they chronicle have vanished.

But Christgau’s still here. He’s an employed rock critic in an era structurally hostile to them (he writes now on Medium’s Cuepoint). “There was always a devil’s bargain in journalism. The advertisers paid your salary, and now the advertisers don’t want us. It’s very unlikely that there’ll ever be anybody like me again,” he says. “There’s no economic basis for it. I feel terrible about what has happened to rock criticism.” He sticks to a CD changer. (“iTunes freezes on me.”) Yet he doesn’t loathe the web; he finds Twitter a good source of links and says music review site Pitchfork, “which was publishing really a lot of bad writing,” has gotten better in recent years. And rapper Azealia Banks sent him into a reverie last year—hard to imagine her without the web.

Christgau bikes a couple times each week from his East Village apartment to his NYU gig, one he’s held since 2005. The class he teaches, at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, is Artists and Audiences, a required one for everyone in the program. It’s music history, with a writing-intensive grafted on. Takes a survivor to keep teaching essay composition to art-school students. As he told the class: “There’s always someone who says I’m imposing my subjective views on writing on their work. Sometimes that’s true. Most of the time it’s not. I was a professional editor for a long time, and a well-regarded one. I had long-running fights with professional writers, and lots of them came to agree with me.” He says, “I’m very proud—even egotistical—about how good I am at what it is I do.” (He also says: “Other teachers will tell you to avoid dashes. Not in this class. They’re great. Use them a lot.”)

The real survival story of his life, though—the one he’s proudest to tell—is the one about his four-decade marriage to author and fellow rock critic Carola Dibbell (pronounced like a Yinzer would “Carol of the Bells,” just with only one bell). “I thought, what do I have to write about? My religious background, my Queens background, my career—although I didn’t hang out with artists like a lot of journalists do. The great saga of my life,” Christgau says, “is romantic love.” He’s big on this, and peeved at the extent to which other memoirists have elided their wives’ influence. That might sound sappy to the hard-hearted rockists out there, but they never cared for Christgau anyway.

In the memoir Christgau’s childhood, college and early postcollege years, plus attendant discursions—there are lots—precede his union with Dibbell. Such is the life of the mind: You’ll learn more here about Crime and Punishment than King Crimson (a band whose first album Christgau called “ersatz sh-t”) and you’ll hear a good deal too about his worldview of contingency, which is original and nicely turned if a little murky. The dramatis personae include Greil Marcus, the pioneering critic and Christgau’s long-term friend; Ellen Willis, the pioneering critic and Christgau’s longish-term lover (she ranks as the smartest person he’s ever known, and then a whole lot else); and his own peccadilloes, dysfunctions and double standards, the confrontation of which leads him to intellectual and emotional development. The Willis sections read especially swell if you shudder but secretly half-smile at the varied indulgences of the ’60s left, as Christgau seems to. Particularly memorable is the moment when our narrator’s pal and mentor, the painter Bob Stanley, tells him the era’s ostensibly enlightened screwing-around actually always stings bad. This after Willis tells Christgau she’ll cheat only on Tuesdays. Writes Christgau, “I swore I’d never try to look cool like that myself, and I never have—not in my private life, and not, I hope, in my public life either.”

And then, enter Dibbell: “[A friend] was sitting beside a pretty, slender brunette with a generous mouth and the kind of hair you want to put your face in. She seemed to be glowing slightly, which you could say was because she was coming down off a sleepless night of mescaline and sex just after she split with her husband, but I say was because for me she just naturally glowed.” Christgau told his NYU class that the best writing is “vigorous, direct and comprehensible.” Oh, this is, and his vigor w/r/t Dibbell recurs—does it ever. They fall in love and wed. The ending, as far as the plot goes, is already spoiled: Dibbell and Christgau are still married, and the daughter, Nina, they adopted from Honduras, is now 29 years old.

Christgau writes relatively frankly about his life considering some of the principals are still around. Dibbell, for one. He makes fewer concessions to discretion than you or I, if not she, might expect. Christgau writes, “I’ve told all with her cooperation or in one or two cases acquiescence. She’s glad this book takes love so seriously, and although she’s less bold than I am, she very much agrees that to shilly-shally about love is a species of lying.” This disclaimer precedes a thorough if not especially graphic account of a phase in their union (spoiler: an affair, hers) that would have severed many, if not most, marriages.

With the bit about his never trying to look cool in mind, I asked Christgau and Dibbell over dinner how it was to research—and by extension relive—those months. Christgau says it was extraordinarily painful; he had nightmares while writing it. But they both say the writing that came from it was good. I agree. Although reading it I felt the same way I did when I sat at their table, dredging up that past transgression: a little thrown.

The unpleasant moments in his writing process, he says, had their pleasant inverses; Christgau says he never wrote more quickly than he did describing a day of passion more than 40 years ago. “I was exalting. I’ve never written that quickly in my life. Did I make a pass at you that night?” Carola smiles but doesn’t answer. “I think I must have.” Some might find this icky. I found it adorable, which to another edgy set would have been icky in its own right. But they’re more in love now, he says, than they’ve ever been before, and they don’t care who knows it. Dibbell has her own upcoming book, The Only Ones, a dystopian debut novel she’s been working on for a decade. It’s out a month after Christgau’s. They edited each other’s work, paging through it in bed.

The three of us headed after dinner to a coffee-and-sweets shop a couple blocks away, where I wanted to continue to ask Christgau about his class and career while Carola wanted to go home, and to bed. He kissed his wife good night. She left, and he started drinking her leftover tea.

As far as love stories go, it’s a little more vanilla than Sid and Nancy—grump away, fatalist Village romantics—but it’s not Nick Sparks. Christgau’s polyhistoric, yeah, but honest, detailed, stirring and sweet. And isn’t that how all the best love songs should be? A-.


Scott Walker’s High-School Science Teacher: ‘Man Up’

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker participates in a panel discussion at the American Action Forum
Yuri Gripas—Reuters Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker participates in a panel discussion at the American Action Forum in Washington, Jan. 30, 2015.

The Republican presidential hopeful refused to answer a recent question about evolution. The governor's former science teacher tells TIME she isn't pleased

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker—a leader in the 2016 Republican presidential sweepstakes—prompted some stateside head-scratching this week when he dodged a British journalist’s question about evolution.

Walker said, “I’m going to punt on that one… That’s a question that a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another.” He was in London on a trade mission.

Among those who questioned Walker: the chair of his high school science department, Ann Serpe, 73. “Answer the question when they ask you!” Serpe said in an interview. “He could have manned up a bit. That’s what I would tell him.”

Serpe, who taught chemistry and chaired the math and science department at Delavan-Darien High School in Delavan, Wis., before her retirement in 1998, now lives in nearby Elkhorn. She recalls that Walker, her pupil and an advisee in student government, was a bright, committed participant in class. Walker graduated in 1986.

What would Walker have learned in high school? “We taught the theory of evolution, and human evolution, as a prerequisite to understanding biological classification. I went out and looked at my biology textbook just to make sure.”

Serpe says, “I don’t know the dogma of the Baptist church where Scott’s father was the minister, as it concerns evolution. But I do recall that Scott was very accepting of everything in science class. He had a good sense of it.”

Walker’s onetime teacher has seen him a few times since his high-school days. She even attended one of Walker’s fundraisers in Milwaukee. Darwin, though, hasn’t come up in their conversations.

She says she hopes he—”as an intelligent young man”—would understand the importance of scientific thought, that evolution and creation are not mutually exclusive. Walker, who may be two decades removed from Serpe’s classroom, said on Twitter that science still informs his worldview.

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