Margaret Talbot

individual

Overview

  • Fellow at the New America Foundation
  • Contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine
  • Former editor of Lingua Franca and The New Republic
  • Sister of Salon webzine founder and former Mother Jones editor David Talbot
  • Sister of leftwing documentary film producer Stephen Talbot

Margaret Talbot was born in 1962 in Los Angeles, California. Her father was the late movie and television actor Lyle Talbot (1902-1996), who is best remembered as the character “Joe Randolph,” neighbor of Ozzie and Harriet on that popular television series (1956-66). Lyle was also a left-wing labor activist who co-founded the Screen Actors Guild and sat on its Board of Directors alongside Ronald Reagan. Other notable Talbot family members include Margaret’s brothers David Talbot and Stephen Talbot.

Holding a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in history from Harvard University, Margaret Talbot has had a long career as a prominent writer and editor. Her articles cover a wide range of topics including social policy, legal issues, politics, popular culture, feminism, childbearing, and male-female relationships. From a political and ideological standpoint, Talbot typically embraces leftist values and Democratic Party causes while deriding conservative perspectives and Republican Party agendas.

Talbot served as an editor at Lingua Franca: The Review of Academic Life and The New Republic from 1995-99, and as a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine from 1999-2003. In 2004 she became a staff writer at The New Yorker, a post she has held ever since.

Talbot also has contributed many pieces to such publications as The Atlantic, The National Geographic, More, Slate, and Salon.com. In 1999 she discovered the young underground press reporter Jake Tapper and urged her brother David Talbot, who at the time was Salon‘s editor-in-chief, to hire him as a political correspondent. Tapper subsequently developed into a national media pundit and became a television correspondent for ABC News.

In a 2005 profile of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Talbot criticized Scalia’s originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and argued that the only “way to get to Brown,” — i.e., the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision stating that “separate-but-equal” facilities for whites and blacks were unconstitutional — was “to embrace the ‘living Constitution’,” or the notion that the Constitution’s meaning must evolve, over time, along with the changing mores and values of society. “[I]t’s hard to see an originalist justification” for Brown, wrote Talbot, since the “same Congress that passed the Fourteenth Amendment segregated Washington schools.” She also quoted the leftist legal scholar Cass Sunstein‘s assertion that a “doctrinaire originalist” undoubtedly would have rejected Brown.[1]

In an August 2015 piece titled “The G.O.P.’s Misogyny Primary,” Talbot wrote that while sexism in America was “very much on the wane,” “misogyny is not.” She differentiated between the two terms by defining sexism as “the conviction that women don’t deserve equal pay, political rights, or access to education” — meaning that it was something that “can be combated by argument, by anti-discrimination laws, and by giving women the opportunity to prove their ability.” By contrast, she wrote, “misogyny” — which is hatred or extreme prejudice directed against women — “is not amenable to such advances.” Citing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as an example of a misogynist, Talbot expressed concern that even if Trump were to fail in his bid for the Republican nomination, a large number of voters might alternatively “vote for any of Trump’s extreme Republican rivals.”

In an October 2016 article titled “2016’s Manifest Misogyny,” Talbot revisited the theme that “what lingers” in modern America “is misogyny—the kind of hate- and fear-filled objectification of women that flourishes in corners of the Internet, and in the rhetoric of Trump and some of his supporters.”

In a June 2018 piece titled “The Trump Administration’s Family Values,” Talbot condemned the “cruelty” of President Trump’s “policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border” as “the purest distillation yet of what it means to be governed by a President with no moral center.” She lamented a number of widely publicized photographs that showed children of Central American asylum-seekers “penned in large metal cages and sprawled on concrete floors under plastic blankets”; the fact that “many [other youngsters] were sent on to facilities thousands of miles away”; and the fact that “those under the age of twelve, including babies and toddlers, were discharged to ‘tender age’ shelters, a concept for which the term ‘Orwellian’ does not quite suffice.” For a contextual explanation of the Trump policy to which Talbot was referring, see Footnote #2 below.[2]

In a February 2019 article titled “Trump’s State of Disunion,” Talbot wrote that “expectations concerning [the president’s] general probity, his commitment to paying his fair share of taxes, and his ability to distance himself from meddling Russians and dictators who flatter him are … low.” She also urged Democrats to “show themselves to be the real party of the American working class” by: helping Americans understand “what a Green New Deal jobs program might look like”; supporting “infrastructure spending”; introducing “legislation to raise the minimum wage”; and “focus[ing], in the House investigations of Trump, on some issues of basic fairness for ordinary Americans, such as the Administration’s weakening of the Affordable Care Act.”

In yet another February 2019 piece, titled “Revisiting the American Nazi Supporters of ‘A Night at the Garden’,” Talbot cast President Trump as an embodiment of everything ugly in American history. Trump’s “encouragement of white supremacists,” she declared, had “compelled a reckoning with aspects of our country’s [racist] past that, for a long time, many Americans preferred not to acknowledge.” “America’s deepest form of exceptionalism,” added Talbot, “is the poison at its root that is slavery.”

In addition to her journalistic and editorial pursuits, Talbot once served as a senior fellow at the New America Foundation.

Further Reading: “Margaret Talbot” (LinkedIn.com, The New Yorker, GoodReads.com, NewAmerica.net); “Brown and Originalism” (by Edward Whelan, National Review, 5-11-2005); “The G.O.P.’s Misogyny Primary” (by Margaret Talbot, 8-12-2015); “2016’s Manifest Misogyny” (by Margaret Talbot, 10-16-2016); “The Trump Administration’s Family Values” (by Margaret Talbot, 6-24-2018); “Trump’s State of Disunion,” (by Margaret Talbot, 2-3-2019); “Revisiting the American Nazi Supporters of ‘A Night at the Garden’” (by Margaret Talbot, 2-22-2019).

Footnotes

  1. Edward Whelan subsequently responded to Talbot in National Review: “Every one of Talbot’s assertions is off the mark…. [T]he 37th Congress created segregated public schools for black children in D.C. in 1862, but it was a later, different Congress–the 39th–that in 1866 proposed the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1868…. [Moreover,] one need not accept Cass Sunstein as the final word on how an originalist would decide Brown. If Talbot found it ‘hard to see an originalist justification’ for ending state-sponsored segregation, it’s because she wasn’t looking in the right places. As early as 1880–a mere twelve years after ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment–the Supreme Court in Strauder v. West Virginia read the Fourteenth Amendment as ‘declaring that the law in the States shall be the same for the black as for the white; that all persons, whether colored or white, shall stand equal before the laws of the States, and, in regard to the colored race, for whose protection the amendment was primarily designed, that no discrimination shall be made against them by law because of their color.’ … But then, in the sort of freewheeling non-originalist excursion that advocates of the phony ‘living Constitution’ have come to celebrate, the majority looked to the mystery of the universe to assert that ‘in the nature of things’ the Fourteenth Amendment ‘could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political, equality.’”
  2. As Matthew Sussis of the Center for Immigration Studies explains: “In April 2018, the Trump administration implemented new guidelines as part of its ‘zero tolerance’ policy toward illegal entry, in response to the rising number of illegal aliens showing up with their children at the southern border. Under these guidelines, the Justice Department prosecuted every border infiltrator for the crime of entry without inspection. After detaining the parents, the government could either put the children in a shelter (due to legal prohibitions on keeping children in detention for over 20 days), or release the entire family into the interior of the country — ‘catch-and-release’ — and hope that they don’t simply disappear into the illegal immigrant population. The first of these two options has been decried by critics as one of ‘family separation’.”

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