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  1. We, America, elected Trump. Putin didn’t do it, nor the trolls in St. Petersburg with their zillions of busy bots. They may well have plucked certain strings in the national psyche — played us like a dimestore ukulele — but we were keen to be plucked.
  2. If you want to see a bunch of happy Americans, go out to opening day at any baseball stadium in the land.
  3. Even a cursory run through American history shows exceptionalism has been used to justify bloodshed, oppression, and profit.
  4. In true demagogic fashion, Trump bypassed the head and spoke directly to the gut, to the biles and bubbling acids of raw emotion.
  5. The smartest thing I did in law school: asking my future wife to go out dancing with me. The smartest thing I did when practicing law: quitting. The smartest thing I’ve done in writing: following my own head and writing what I wanted to write, and nothing but.
  6. I’m ashamed and embarrassed to say that I’ve read very little of David Foster Wallace’s work. It’s a huge gap in my education, one of many.
  7. American history is not clean.
  8. Obama was elected on the shoulders of an incipient movement that he allowed to languish once he became president.
  9. The American identity is mind-bogglingly various.
  10. If you’re looking for the phony in American politics, you could do worse than follow the money.
  11. In the arsenal of the phony, the politics of God is one of the deadliest punches to the sweet spot of the American mind.
  12. Americans care a lot about authenticity, rightly so. Every election is a quest for the genuine article. This is precisely what makes the long con of American politics such a rich and mystifying study.
  13. Learning essential stuff is as much a discipline as going to the gym or sticking to a diet, and an excellent antidote for the modern condition of being numb and dumb.
  14. People rarely grow in humility once they reach the White House.
  15. The national framework of social insurance — social security, unemployment and disability benefits, work programs, and workers’ compensation — protected citizens from the kinds of risks that private markets couldn’t or wouldn’t insure.
  16. Upward mobility across classes peaked in the U.S. in the late 19th century. Most of the gains of the 20th century were achieved en masse; it wasn’t so much a phenomenon of great numbers of people rising from one class to the next as it was standards of living rising sharply for all classes. You didn’t have to be exceptional to rise.
  17. Let the record reflect: the American people are a bunch of suckers.
  18. After Bush was elected in 2004 — please note that I didn’t say ‘re-elected’ — and I was walking around in my befuzzed state of confusion and low-grade depression, I set out more or systematically to read writers who’d grappled with that fundamental question of what America is, why it is the way it is.
  19. Pretty much any day is a good day to go to the ballpark, but that first day of the season is special. It’s spring. The grass is green. Pessimism is impossible — at least, until the other team scores.
  20. The main thing about writing is… writing. Sitting your butt down in the chair and doing the work.

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