Something to celebrate: 50 favourite places in the UK | Travel

Something to celebrate: 50 favourite places in the UK | Travel

With the nation blinded by Brexit, it’s easy to lose sight of how varied, fascinating and often beautiful these islands are. So we asked 50 writers to celebrate what’s great about the UK. Isle of Arran A short sail across the Firth of Clyde on a red-funnelled Caledonian MacBrayne ferry takes me to the wonderful sight of the Isle of Arran, cutting through the water, with Goatfell to the right and Holy Isle just in view off the picturesque village of Lamlash. These are the coordinates of joy, no matter the weather. It’s a place of family holidays, parties, friendship and, for me, creativity. I love to travel the wonderful “String” road – climbing high out of Brodick, over the moors and down into the fertile valley and the beach at Blackwaterfoot, blasting music into the blue cloud-blown sky – eat at the Drift Inn in Lamlash, and walk through the historic gardens at Brodick Castle . I first stayed on the island when I was not two years old and, according to my parents, in the bedroom of the B&B I ripped the wallpaper off the wall beside my cot, much to the landlady’s fury. That was before we had a car, and I was carted around the island on a bike. I go to Arran whenever I can. It was the setting for my first novel, The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle and on 1 September I’ll be at the Clamjamfry – the arts and music festival named for the Scottish word for a rabble. I’ll speak about eight pieces of art that have inspired me, and I’ll choose them all from the island, chief among them Craigie Aitchison’s luminous and intense paintings of Holy Isle , a place he loved.
Kirsty Wark, Newsnight presenter and Landmark Trust ambassador. Her new novel, The House by the Loch (Two Roads, £16.99), is out on 13 June
Under the Stars festival Barnsley Pass the ale. Yeah, that woody, chocolatey one. Here comes another pair of dungarees and a rainbow tank top. Lovely. Everything, in fact, is lovely at the Underneath the Stars festival (2-4 August 2019). Swathed in trees and set amid the rolling hills of Cawthorne, near Barnsley (yes, Barnsley), it’s an enclave of tranquillity. Everyone is polite and considerate and there are no posers or preeners. “Security” is a sweet lady from the WI helping you fasten the entry wristband. So, on your deck chair, pint in hand, you feel safe, at ease, taking a rest from the world, a rest from yourself. And the music? Well, mercifully, it’s not My Dying Bride or Goblin Cock but a cheery amalgam of folkies strumming paeans to revolution, of the serene kind.
Mark Hodkinson , writer and publisher
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Durham Cathedral on the River Wear. Photograph: Alamy
Seen from Framwellgate bridge, the ancient city of Durham is the most exhilarating vision of architecture and landscape in England. For architecture historian Nikolaus Pevsner, only Prague and Avignon offered finer views. The castle and cathedral pile into the sky on their promontory, a massive gesture of Norman arrogance after the conquest of the reluctant north. The climb up the medieval street to the castle only reinforces this sense of supremacy. It is the one place in England where we can imagine ourselves back in the middle ages. Within the close, all is monastic survival. The old castle is enlivened by students studying beneath dogtooth arches. The cathedral is overwhelming, softened only by the greenery of the encircling gorge. Its great sandstone walls rest on the hilltop like a recumbent beast. The tower soars over County Durham, as dominant over modern rooftops as it once was over shacks of mud and thatch. The filigree decoration of the west towers is a delightful contrast. Inside, the drum roll of Durham’s famous arcades rams home the message that Normans were here to stay. Small wonder the Saxons capitulated.
Simon Jenkins, Guardian columnist and author
Grainger Market, Newcastle If cabin fever set in while I was writing my book, I’d escape my Newcastle office and walk to Grainger Market , its cavernous chambers hidden within a city block, behind street-facing shops. Something about the 19th-century market’s arched halls, lit by rows of clerestory windows in the walls above, triggered the dreamer in me. My thoughts would drift from what to write next towards memories of my life in Ireland (I have lived in the north-east for almost six years) before being dragged back to the endless trauma of contemporary British politics. Shops in the market range from English butchers to French crêpe-makers. You can buy Chinese dumplings, Turkish street food and Italian pizza slices. It’s a good place to go and think about how things are, and how they might be.
Karl Whitney, author of Hit Factories: A Journey Through the Industrial Cities of British Pop (Orion, £20), out in June
Denge, Kent
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Two acoustic mirrors, or ‘listening ears’, at Denge. Photograph: Stephen French/Alamy
Rising out of the endless shingle landscape like curious monuments from a future civilisation, the “listening ears” at Denge , on the Kent coast near Dungeness, are one of the strangest sights in the country. They poke up above the horizon like gigantic fossilised satellite dishes, isolated on an unreachable island across a moat, making them all the more enticing. These great bowls of concrete were built as an early warning system to detect enemy planes approaching Britain across the Channel. Constructed between 1928 and 1935, they were defunct almost as soon as they were finished. Faster aircraft and the invention of radar before the start of the second world war made them redundant, leaving them as anachronistic relics – and a poetic place of pilgrimage for lovers of concrete ever since.
Oliver Wainwright , Guardian architecture critic
Green Dragon Inn, Hawes, North Yorkshire The Green Dragon Inn in Hawes, North Yorkshire, is a place that should only exist in the imagination. From the outside, it looks like any old ancient English inn – a lovely place to stop while rambling in the Yorkshire Dales. But the back door is the only access point to a secret and beautiful walk, through fauna and flora ending at a spectacular waterfall that forms the basis of many sweet memories from my childhood.
Meera Sodha, chef, Guardian food writer and author
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The only event that can rival Wimbledon in my affections is Notting Hill Carnival, but I’m going with the former because although they’re both great festivals, there’s no tennis at Carnival. Granted, the costumes are not as much fun and, at the risk of seeming chippy, I cling to the belief that it is impossible to wear a panama hat without looking like a tosser. The Royal Box and debentured seats – aka inherited touting – are stains on England’s green and otherwise pleasant Centre Court, but everything else about Wimbledon – the way the players’ names are not announced as they make their way discreetly on to the courts, the lack of music during end-changes, the all-white rule for competitors’ clothing, the lack of advertising, the emerald glow of the grass, the pervasive conviviality of the crowds – is a source of joy and pride.
Author Geoff Dyer , whose latest book is Broadsword Calling Danny Boy (Penguin £7.99)
Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro I have lived in Cornwall for nigh on 30 years now, and the place for me that distils all its cliff-edge energy and un-English history is the mineral collection at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro. Cornwall is a hotspot of geological diversity: an amazing 14% of the earth’s 400-odd minerals can be found beneath its soil. From the bronze age right up to the industrial revolution, the miners of Cornwall have played their part in shaping the world. But there is nothing functional about the collection of rocks on display in Truro. They are miraculous displays of the earth’s elements, of what happens to copper and tin and iron when they are subjected to intense heat and pressure – the greens of malachite, the yellows of bassetite, the intense blues of azurite and liroconite, the fantasy landscapes of crystals. It is a place to lose yourself in wonder.
Philip Marsden, whose new book, The Summer Isles: A Sea Voyage (Granta, price tbc), is out in October
The Forth Bridge
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In my palm, a talisman: a brittle dome the colour of dried blood. It’s paint, flaked off the Forth Bridge , formed around a rivet – one of 6.5 million – during unending repaintings. This ghost rivet, which I found one day while on the bridge for work, brings to mind the entire structure – 2,467 metres of it stretching from Lothian to Fife. The bridge has stood in the firth since 1890, and stands for how we in Scotland like to see ourselves: strong, ingenious, a pragmatic grace weatherproofing us against life’s winds and tides. It – she – is beautiful. Look at her psychedelic geometry. Look at her unyielding span. Put her on a tea towel and she loses no dignity, transcends kitsch. I love her beckoning steel.
Peter Ross , author of The Passion Of Harry Bingo (Sandstone Press, £8.99)
Northallerton Station Hotel, North Yorkshire It may look like any old Victorian pub, serving big fried breakfasts and Sunday lunch, but the Station , with its roasting log fire and quirky teapot collection, embodies a particular warmth. A few pounds buys a giant pot of Yorkshire tea and a plate of cake: perfectly gooey homemade brownies or ginger parkin from Whitby. The Cleveland Way, a beautiful, looping, long-distance route across the North York Moors, is a 20-minute bus ride from Northallerton. The path was knee deep in snow early last year, with black grouse chirring out of the white-muffled heather. Our spectacular hike ended back at the Station, with our soaked socks steaming warmly by the fire as we waited for the train.
Phoebe Taplin, whose latest book is Walk York (Pitkin, £6)
Holkham beach, Norfolk
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There is something very British about a beach that is at its most beautiful in bad weather. Idyllic under blue summer skies, the four miles of pale golden sand at Holkham in north Norfolk , reached through a dense brow of pine forest, is heart-melting under a silver frost and thrilling when a storm rolls in and turns sky and sea to pewter. Horizontal lines bring a sense of calm, a slowing of the breath, and this is just as true of these epic stretches of shore, horizon and treeline as it is of impressionist landscapes, or Ingres nudes. Turn left at the end of Holkham gap, walk to the hollowed out dune mountain of Gun Hill (used as an artillary emplacement in the Napoleonic Wars), then turn left again and head inland along the raised bank to Burnham Overy Staithe. Breathe. Go for a pint in the Hero . Perfect.
Jess Cartner-Morley, Guardian associate fashion editor
The Peer Hat, Manchester In a city where Factory Records’ legacy is exploited by the same property developers who are rapidly pricing any creativity out of the city centre, the Peer Hat – a pub, grassroots music/arts venue and DIY record shop – has, in 18 months, come to feel like a much-loved last stand … a persistent weed amid all that new concrete and glass. Hidden on a Northern Quarter side street where stag dos fear to tread (and so shambolic they wouldn’t stay long anyway), the Hat has a gloriously random, lo-fi events programme, clearly done for love not money, giving it a friendly, all-comers community feel that is far closer to the dissenting spirit of late-1980s Manchester than any Hacienda revival night. It is an oasis of odd in an increasingly bland city.
Tony Naylor, Manchester-based Guardian journalist
Broadstairs, Kent
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Clinging on to the south-eastern tip of Britain, wedged between the rapidly gentrifying Georgian seaside gems of Margate and Ramsgate, Broadstairs feels like the town that time forgot. My dad used to holiday there in the 1950s, and though their hotel is now (luxury) flats, his favourite ice-cream parlour, Morelli’s , is still serving the knickerbocker glories he was never allowed (and dog ice-cream, too, these days). At low tide you can walk along the coast from Margate, beneath crumbling wartime fortifications, the 78 steps cut in the chalk that inspired John Buchan’s 39, and the original Bleak House, with views across to France on a clear day. Away from the centre, the beaches are always gloriously empty apart from the occasional abalone hunter: what a way to work up an appetite.
Felicity Cloake, food writer
St Wystan’s crypt, Repton, Derbyshire The Anglo-Saxon crypt at St Wystan’s church was built – unbelievably – in the early eighth century and is the burial place of the kings of Mercia. This is a building so hallowed and ancient you feel you should approach through swirling mists with ravens cawing overhead. Half-buried beneath the church, the crypt is a small, vaulted chamber, thick with carved stone columns and recesses for bones. In 873 the great Viking army over-wintered here and buried their fallen warriors in the surrounding fields. The crypt was not rediscovered until a grave digger crashed through the vault in 1779. It seems almost impossible it should survive, and to stand silently on its medieval flagstones is to be borne back to the age of Bede.
Dr Anna Keay, director, the Landmark Trust
Suilven mountain, Sutherland
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In the north-west of Scotland lies Assynt, an otherworldly landscape of barren scrub and glacier-carved mountains. Suilven, the most famous of these, has mesmerised artists from Norman MacCaig to electronic band Finiflex. It takes seven hours, on a good day, to walk in, up and back. It is not for the faint-hearted – at the base is half an hour of bog, the ascent is near-vertical, and the ridge is around a metre wide. From the top, on a good day, you can see for miles, a landscape of sapphire lochs and vertiginous peaks. A pair of golden eagles nest near the summit and hover, menacingly, just above. On a bad day you won’t see your hand in front of your face and should not even attempt to climb this mountain.
Rosamund West, editor-in-chief of culture magazine The Skinny
Pier Art Centre, Orkney I first walked into the Pier Art Centre (PAC) in the summer of 1979, when I was 13. The gallery had just opened and my Granny wanted to “tak a keek”. She told me a woman, a peace activist from London called Margaret Gardiner, had left 67 of her paintings to the people of Orkney. I thought that was a grand idea. On holiday I mixed working on the croft and taking in peat with seeing the art of incredible women artists such as Barbara Hepworth, Margaret Mellis, Sylvia Wishart and Margaret Tait. Some 40 years on, PAC is the heart of the island’s artistic community, a contemporary gallery and museum valued by artists, academics and visitors from across the world. A precious thing indeed. And with a beautiful shop.
Sarah Munro, director of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead
Deal pier, Kent
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I love piers: with infinite ease, they take you out to sea, immersed in the wind and surrounded by clouds. I also have a soft spot for cafes: I write best when surrounded by movement. So it was with great delight that I heard a new cafe, Deal Pier Kitchen , was opening at the end of my local pier. Where better to write about tides than in a cafe surrounded by water? The pier itself – a brutal slab of concrete-clad steel built in the 1950s – could hardly be called attractive, but the building at its end, Deal Pier Kitchen, hovering over the waves, is an architectural wonder. Built in timber, wrapped in glass and held together with marine-grade stainless steel, it is a joy to spend time in. And I spend a lot of time there now, perhaps too much, fuelled by coffee and writing about a natural world that is so entwined with this magical place.
William Thomson, author of Tides and the Ocean (Black Dog and Leventhal, £21)
Buckland-in-the-Moor, Devon On a wooded slope on the edge of Dartmoor, reached by a tortuous, winding lane, lies Buckland-in-the-Moor, a pretty hamlet of a few thatched cottages, manor house, farm and little flint church. Above it is a high granite tor with a huge split rock on which the Ten Commandments are carved (commisisoned by the lord of Buckland Manor in 1928); the River Dart rushes white through dense woods in the valley below. We stayed in Buckland every summer all through my childhood, renting what was once the hamlet’s tiny stone school. It hasn’t changed a great deal since then, and to me retains the luminosity of a lost paradise – perhaps because, as it’s not on the way to anywhere, the only visitors are those who seek out this tiny Domesday settlement.
Melissa Harrison, whose latest novel is All Among the Barley ( Bloomsbury, £8.99 )
Chalice Well, Glastonbury
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At the base of Glastonbury Tor, Chalice Well is one of the most famous in the world and steeped in mystery and legend. A natural spring fed by an aquifer, it has been in use for around 2,000 years, unfailingly delivering a million litres of water a day at a steady 11C. This constancy, and the water’s reddish hue (from its iron oxide content), make the spring special, but when these elements are combined with Christian and Arthurian myths, they gain even greater potency. Christian legend has it that after the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple, came to Glastonbury with the Holy Grail (the chalice Christ used at the Last Supper and which caught drops of blood at his crucifixion). He placed the chalice under the well, which supposedly turned the water blood-red. The chalice was later sought by King Arthur’s knights and is central to the Arthurian legends of the Isle of Avalon (so named because the Tor was once surrounded by sea).
Clare Gogerty , author of Beyond the Footpath: Mindful Adventures for Modern Pilgrims (Piatkus, £14.99)
Stoney Littleton Long Barrow, Somerset Set above pretty Wellow village and overlooking rolling Somerset fields, Stoney Littleton is one of Britain’s best examples of a Neolithic chambered long barrow . Open to all and free to enter, it is, strangely, always deserted but for our gaggle of friends and children. Crawling into the stone tomb, we explore the seven chambers by candlelight. Crouching on the damp earth, no one can ignore the unique sense of ancient history and sacredness this place holds. Imaginations often run riot, the subterranean deep peace broken by the strange ritual games children can’t help but play. Emerging back into the light, we climb the grassy cover and lie down among the wild flowers, contemplating the prehistoric lives of the early farmers who built this shrine over 5,000 years ago.
Tania Pascoe , author of the Wild Guide to South West England, ( Wild Things Publishing , £16.99)
River Sprint, Cumbria
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Deep in a woodland seam, at the edge of an elegant slantwise waterfall, my favourite footpath passes a rocky promontory in the River Sprint, much like a Victorian viewing station. It’s a place to pause and contemplate England’s shortest river as it races downstream. The path follows the old mill race then opens into a clearing where the wild merges into flower gardens above a sinuous twist in the river. Here are the restored historic buildings of Sprint Mill , a place that frequently calls me back to sit awhile and drop away from the everyday, to watch blackbirds surf the woodland understory and dippers unzip the water. Beyond lie meadows where curlews call.
Karen Lloyd, author of The Blackbird Diaries (Saraband, £12.99)
Leeds City Museum Built in 1819 to provide education for the city’s industrial workers, Leeds City Museum is now a vibrant hub for hundreds of community events; a fantastic place to spend a few hours with the Leeds Mummy; or discover something new on your lunch break. It is an inclusive space for the whole city, with great cake. The summer Leeds Pride parade starts outside the museum. This year it’s on 4 August, when thousands of people will watch over 120 floats in a joyous and proud celebration of the city’s LGBT community. The Trans Pride Leeds march starts at the museum at 11.30am on Sunday 31 March 2019.
Alexandra McEwan-Hannant, director, Leeds Pride
Dungeness, Kent
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Derek Jarman’s home and garden. Photograph: Robert Bird/Alamy
I first visited this shingle headland sticking out into the Channel, close to the border of Kent and East Sussex, on a blindingly sunny day: a heavy blue sky weighing down on the flat land added to the strangeness of the place. Dwellings are scattered about, including several squat, rubber-covered buildings and peeling wooden shacks. The famous shingle garden of the late film director Derek Jarman maintains its peculiar mix of wild poppies and purple valerian. In a tiny art gallery spread across three garden sheds, I read aloud a sign that said, “Dungeness is not bleak.” A disembodied voice echoed this from a nearby garden: “Don’t call it bleak!” So not bleak, then, but about as close to a wild west as the UK gets.
Hazel Sheffield, founder of Far Nearer , which maps community projects
The George Inn, Southwark, London For years I’ve stopped at the George for a drink while in the area. Built in 1677 as a coaching inn, the Grade I-listed building (owned by the National Trust) is the only London galleried pub still in existence. Charles Dickens drank here, perhaps under the 1797 clock in the Parliament Bar. The pub is a reassuring constant in an ever-modernising neighbourhood. The Shard and Guy’s Hospital tower over the courtyard, but by the cosy fireplace, enveloped by dark timber-framed walls and wonky beamed ceiling, you feel immersed in old London.
Noo Saro-Wiwa, author of Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria (Granta, £9.99)
Bridport, Dorset
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Bridport’s famous torchlight procession marks the end of the carnival weekend. Photograph: Finbarr Webster/Rex/Shutterstock
Gateway to the Jurassic Coast and once the centre of the country’s rope- and net-making industries, Bridport is guarded by Eggardon Hill, an iron age hill fort with spectacular views across the town to the sea and Colmers Hill, with its copse of Scots pines commemorating those lost in the first world war. Now a hub for writers and artists, Bridport (check out the vintage market twice weekly) was the inspiration for Port Bredy in Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, and for artists such as Augustus John, Paul Nash and Edward Ravilious, whose work reflects the Dorset coast and landscape. Annual festivals abound, celebrating agriculture, art, cider, film, folk, food, literature – and hats . The pace of life is gentle – the town hall clock runs slow – offering everyone time to dawdle and discuss the day’s events and tomorrow’s weather.
Tanya Bruce-Lockhart, director, Bridport Literary Festival
River Taff, Brecon Beacons Superficially, a river’s source is only where its above-ground life begins; it is humans that lend it romance. The source of the Taff is off Pen Y Fan’s summit. Part of my story began with the Taff, so its tiny source is for me an important place to sit and reflect. That river pulled my first book out of me, and a BBC series. I caught my first salmon there, and found the person I love. “If you stretch your fingertips you can actually feel the river trickle out of the mountain.” That’s what I said to her one sunny afternoon, waiting on one knee till she found the ring in the source’s mossy hollow.
Will Millard, author of The Old Man and the Sand Eel (Penguin, £14.99)
The Roaches, Peak District
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A jumble of geological majesty, the soaring outcrop of gritstone known as the Roaches is a wild gem within an hour’s drive of the Potteries and Manchester. Along with similarly spectacular neighbouring outcrop Hen Cloud, they form a magnet for climbers and walkers. Peregrine falcons and ground-nesting birds return every spring; royal purple carpets of heather explode on the surrounding moors every August; and there are breathtaking views all year round into the heart of England. The cave dwelling that’s now the Don Whillans Memorial Hut is a sight to behold. British Mountaineering Council members can stay in it overnight, using it as a base to go climbing – it’s nestled into the rock itself.
Lynn Robinson, president, British Mountaineering Council
Sloans Bar and Restaurant, Glasgow This bar and restaurant over three floors is a hidden beauty, has that comforting, dark wood-panelled feel to it, and is always busy with classic Glaswegian characters. It’s the perfect place to while away hours putting the world to rights or rowing about politics – I spent a good few nights there during the Scottish independence referendum campaign in 2014. But my fondest memories are seeking refuge there on Christmas Eve. I was brought up in Glasgow and my family still live there. After my usual last-minute, high-stress, present-buying panic, catching up with my old school pals is a great festive tradition. They also do a fabulous cullen skink, the thick soup of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions.
Ayesha Hazarika, political commentator and comedian
St Fagans National Museum of History, Cardiff
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I didn’t visit St Fagans until I was an adult. We didn’t have a car to travel to the other side of Cardiff from the council estate where we lived. It was the UK’s first open-air museum, with over 40 buildings moved from their original sites and rebuilt brick by brick across the museum grounds. It holds different eras of Welsh architecture, including a long house, a non-conformist chapel, a workers’ institute, and 19th-century workers’ cottages. I was the artist-in-residence in 2017-18 and being there on an early misty morning felt like having access to time travel. We now visit regularly – there’s a farm, part of the original site, and my daughter loves to see the piglets. Thanks to public funding, it is still free for all.
Sean Edwards, artist representing Wales in this year’s Venice Biennale
Devenish, County Fermanagh It has no high crags or swooping slopes, but what Northern Ireland’s lake district lacks in drama it makes up for in quiet beauty and a strange, resonant history. The twin lakes of Lower and Upper Lough Erne were once home to many monastic settlements scattered across their hundreds of tiny islands, and a short boat trip from Enniskillen leads to Devenish, a low island which first housed a monastery in the sixth century. None of those buildings remains, but a round tower, built in the 12th century, does, along with evocative ruins of other buildings and a beautifully carved medieval stone cross (though pretty newfangled by Irish standards). The saints are long gone, but the echo of their presence is powerfully felt here.
Esther Addley, senior Guardian news writer
Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire
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I remember it clearly. We were in front of the vast kitchen hearth, and the lady tour guide offered the kids in the group a challenge – in Tudor times, it was the children’s job to fetch water using the large iron pot at her feet. Did we think we could do it? Normally reticent, I stepped forward that day. Like a mini Jeff Capes I hefted the bucket and marched it across the smoky stone-flagged floor. I felt the thrill of lived history – not dusty book-learned, but visceral. Little Moreton Hall is a beautiful, ornately half-timbered 500-year-old manor house. It’s higgledy-piggeldy, has tiny, bent windows and funny odd-angle corners. It’s a place for adventures and imagination, gloriously old but still very much alive.
Mary-Ann Ochota, author of Hidden Histories: a Spotter’s Guide to the British Landscape (Frances Lincoln, £14.95)
Cycling South Head, Peak District Kinder Scout gets all the glory, but for me South Head is the best Peak District hill. You can walk it, but I like to ride up it on my mountain bike, ascending from Chinley, which has a station with connections to Sheffield and Manchester, and a corking cycle-friendly pub, the Old Hall Inn . The single-track road stops at my dream home, Beet Farm, and then turns into a gravelly bridleway. It is a tough climb but worth every drop of sweat for the view at the top of the bridleway, which boasts Kinder to the right and Mount Famine to the left. Then it’s a fun descent into Hayfield for lunch. Rosie Lee’s tearoom does the best grilled cheese sandwiches and they don’t mind muddy bums.
Helen Pidd, Guardian North of England editor
Joseph Wright of Derby masterpiece
Facebook Twitter Pinterest A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery, by Joseph Wright. Photograph: Alamy
It’s a painting about wonder, and a wonder of British art. Joseph Wright of Derby’s 1766 masterpiece, A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery , portrays faces glowing in the golden light of a lamp that’s set at the heart of a clockwork model of the solar system. This was the closest you could get to space travel in the 18th century, an interplanetary journey of the mind . It’s not just light but discovery that brightens the eyes of the children gazing at the orbiting planets. Wright was part of a group of Midlands intellectuals and industrialists at the cutting edge of the Enlightenment, so it’s fitting that his vision hangs in Derby Museum , free for all to enjoy. Forget stately homes – this is a real British treasure.
Jonathan Jones, Guardian art critic
Silloth, Cumbria I first rolled into the isolated little town of Silloth 10 years ago, when cycling down the Cumbrian coast, and was captivated by the sheer scale and unexpectedness of it: the cobbled main street, wide enough to host a military parade of tanks and rocket launchers; the beautiful three-storey Victorian terraces, painted in pastel and primary, overlooking a 36-acre green, complete with rose garden and pagoda, that runs down to the Solway Firth, beyond which loom the hills of Galloway; the little ice-cream shops and tearooms. It felt like a town built for a future that never came. Except it had done, briefly, in the 19th century, when the railway arrived and, with it, hordes of trippers from Carlisle. Tastes changed. The line was axed. Silloth, its name straight from a Brönte novel, should have rotted. But it didn’t, somehow, miraculously; a community determined that it wouldn’t. I have friends in the Lakes and visit Silloth most years now. There are never crowds. I walk along the long promenade, looking for the famous Solway porpoises, and am always happy there.
Mike Carter , author of All Together Now? One Man’s Walk in Search of His Father and a Lost England ( Guardian Faber , £9.99)
Rùm Cuillin
Facebook Twitter Pinterest The smaller, lesser known Cuillin ridge on the Isle of Rùm, looking to the Isle of Eigg. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian
For three nights in the year 1014, a Viking fleet anchored off the Isle of Man was attacked by clamorous “iron-billed ravens”. This was an early encounter with Manx shearwaters returning to their colony, and the origin of the first half of the birds’ name. So says the excellent pamphlet produced by Scottish Natural Heritage on the UK’s largest colony of Manx shearwaters, estimated at 100,000 pairs on the mountainous Isle of Rùm . This is a smaller, lesser-known Cuillin ridge than the one on the Isle of Skye. Setting off early from Kinloch, I entertained myself on the ridge’s flakes, cracks and spikey spines. As you tumble down from Sgùrr nan Gillean (young lads’ peak), you stumble on the bothy at Dibidil . It’s a classic stone-built, corrugated-roofed cottage with two large fireplaces, kitchen table, candles and comfy if hard pallet-style beds. It is wood-lined, antler-adorned and its small windows offer views towards the Isle of Eigg.
Murdo MacLeod, photographer
Ramsgate Music Hall, Kent This small, 140-capacity venue routinely entices big-name artists to the Kent coast – among them Jarvis Cocker, Four Tet, Gruff Rhys, Neneh Cherry, Cate Le Bon and Sleaford Mods. It’s easy to see why: the sound is impeccable, the beer local and the atmosphere quite magical. It also offers film nights, club nights, a radio station and a membership programme. Like the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge and the Prince Albert in Stroud, it plays a vital role in the local community, nurturing the area’s new talent, and forming the exuberant heart of a small, slightly out-of-the-way town that dearly loves music.
Laura Barton, music journalist
St Pancras International station, London
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This sprawling vision of Victorian Gothic architecture is one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world. More like a cathedral or a fortress, the red-brick beauty only appeared on my radar after I’d spent time travelling in and out of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj terminus and realised it was modelled on St Pancras. Opened in 1868, St Pancras was built to connect London with England’s major cities and deliberately designed to impress. Now the gateway to Europe and the rest of the railway world, the station holds a special place in my heart: it was where I began my rail journey around the world, looking up at the iron ribcage arched across the roof and the last of the London sunshine blazing between its bones.
Monisha Rajesh, author of Around The World in 80 Trains ( Bloomsbury, £20 )
Walla Crag, Cumbria This landscape was my playground. So much of my youth was spent climbing on the local crags, flying my paraglider above this fell and windsurfing on the lake below. On first sight, this easily accessible hike seems an unlikely place to explore. But it’s not hard to venture off-route and discover hidden sections nestled between fell tops. The summit of Walla Crag offers stunning views across the Northern Fells. I’d recommend you head back via the lovely Ashness Wood to the shores of Derwentwater and a boat ride or lake shore walk back to Keswick.
Steve Scott, director, Kendal Mountain Festival
New Brighton, Merseyside
Facebook Twitter Pinterest The Sea Shanty coffee shop
It’s fanciful to suggest that Liverpool has a South Bank, a Brooklyn or even a Christiania – an over-the-water, sketchy decompression zone. But if it happens, it’ll happen in New Brighton. I love this square mile of spunky seaside resort on the northern tip of the Wirral peninsula. Once a seething mass of Scouse summer day trippers and Martin Parr photo opportunities, it’s crackling with energy again. Saturday acoustic sessions at the Sea Shanty coffee shop, and a stroll around the cafes (the breakfasts at Remember When cafe on Victoria Parade are excellent) and the bars of the spruced-up Victorian Quarter reveal a town with a renewed sense of purpose: cool creatives, candy floss and Count Arthur Strong at the Floral Pavilion. Perfect. If the Coral can rise again, so can New Brighton.
David Lloyd, co-founder of Liverpool-based creative agency Kindholm
The Camel Trail, Cornwall The Camel estuary is where my wife and I first holidayed together. We bundled our tandem off the train at Bodmin Parkway and soon hit greenery. No traffic, just gravel crunching under tyres. Then more sky than trees as the sheltered Camel Trail turned into a snaking golden ribbon and the estuary opened out in front of us, wide and bright. As we glided across steel bridges that once carried trains, it was all ours. Later, when we retraced our tracks from Padstow, it was for everyone. People sauntering, cycling, pushing children, sharing space, the breeze and that light. We’ve been back with our girls and it’s still special: a place where sea meets river meets land, and an old railway line has been turned into a path for everyone.
Xavier Brice, CEO, Sustrans walking and cycling charity
Cadair Idris mountain, Snowdonia
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I’m not sure how or why Cadair Idris became our family’s favourite mountain. When they were small, my children were convinced that King Arthur was buried under it, which did lure them back in case he appeared. It’s actually a great peak for little legs: it looks huge and daunting, but is only 893 metres high and a four-mile round trip at its shortest. The top in winter can deliver a taste of the Arctic: we once turned back because the wind was too much. The stone hut on the summit is a welcome shelter sometimes, but usually we’ve had glorious sunshine and views of the Irish Sea. The main “pony path” starts a couple of miles south-west of Dolgellau (stock up on supplies here), but my favourite route is from Minffordd in the south: it’s a bit more spectacular. Wild swimmers will need to tackle the scree slope down from the top (I wouldn’t fancy ascending that way) to Gadair tarn. It’s a pocket battleship of a mountain, full of surprises.
Kevin Rushby, Guardian Travel writer
Islands of Fleet, Galloway The tiny Islands of Fleet are hidden in Scotland’s far south-west, rather than the hoaching north-west, on the less-travelled Solway coast near Gatehouse. Unless you have your own boat, you can only look at them lying enticingly offshore. I discovered this timeless littoral by accident after stocking up on ice-cream and delicious cheese from the Cream O’Galloway farm nearby. I followed a track by some cabins in a community called Carrick. I found coves to swim in and rocky bluffs from which to watch the sunset, the islets you can never quite get to bathed in the limpid Solway light, both forgotten and unforgettable.
Pete Irvine, author of Scotland The Best (HarperCollins, £15.99)
Valhalla Museum, Tresco, Isles of Scilly
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The first time Newlyn School of Art ran a painting holiday in the Scillies, our young family rented a cottage so I could oversee it. I will never forget stumbling on the Valhalla Museum at the Abbey Gardens . It is the most emotive, tragic and romantic memorial to the many shipping disasters that have taken place in the treacherous waters around Scilly. One that sticks in my mind is the Primos, whose sole survivor was found clinging to the ship’s figurehead. The museum has around 30 figureheads, packed together so you feel like you are walking around the sailors, merchants and civilians who perished in these disasters. The adventure of travelling to Tresco via a tiny plane and a small boat, followed by a tractor ride to our cottage, was all part of the magic.
Henry Garfit, director, Newlyn School of Art , Cornwall
Water of Leith walkway, Edinburgh My favourite footpath in the world is the Water of Leith walkway (it is also a cycleway). Starting in Balerno, at the foot of the Pentland hills south-west of the city, it follows the river for 12½ miles to the port of Leith. Surrounded by woodland, it’s a green ribbon of calm through the heart of the city. It can be tackled in different sections – my personal favourite is from Stockbridge to Dean Village, where highlights include the village of Stockbridge itself, with its elegant Georgian and Victorian terraced houses, the circular Roman temple of St Bernard’s Well, and ridiculously beautiful Dean Village, with its half-timbered houses. Coming here feels like a walk back in time.
Kash Bhattacharya, founder, Budget Traveller website
Wormwood Scrubs, London
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I am in love with a place that is so unremarkable that my birdy friends initially thought I had lost my mind. The place is Wormwood Scrubs. It’s a 183-acre park that adjoins the prison of the same name and was featured lyrically in the Jam’s single, Down at the Tube Station at Midnight. I discovered early on that the Scrubs attracts an amazing variety of birds, some of them nationally rare. It is also the venue where I first realised that by simply looking up you could see a lot. Misty early mornings are magical here. It’s so wild that I often imagine myself alone in the countryside – in urban west London.
David Lindo , author of How To Be An Urban Birder,
The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Capel-y-ffin, Black Mountains The church dates from 1762 but the site, below Gospel Pass at the head of the Llanthony valley, has been a spiritual retreat for centuries. It is said a vision of the Virgin Mary appeared here in Norman times . The tiny whitewashed building with its wobbly belfry is just eight metres by four inside. The plain glass window, looking up the steep valley to heather moorland, is etched with a line from Psalm 121: “I shall lift up mine eyes to the hills whence cometh my salvation.” In the graveyard, encircled by ancient purple-barked yews, are two headstones engraved by sculptor Eric Gill. Walk the surrounding hills to experience a tranquillity that lured Francis Kilvert, Eric Ravilious, David Jones and Bruce Chatwin here.
Rob Penn, author of The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees (Particular, £16.99)
Barton Broad Boardwalk, Norfolk
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Norfolk’s tourist mecca is now its north coast but it was once the Broads. This maze of 125 miles of navigable waterways were a fashionable Edwardian playground enjoyed by everyone from Arthur Ransome to George Formby. Since then, this biodiversity hotspot has been associated with boozy motorboating holidays. And yet the Broads remain, as naturalist Ted Ellis wrote, “a breathing space for the cure of souls”. My favourite soul-cure is Barton Broad Boardwalk, a wheelchair-accessible path which dives into a mysterious British rainforest. Oaks and alder entwine with honeysuckle, all sprouting from a swamp. The path twists, woodpeckers drum, kingfishers flit. Suddenly, miraculously, a great freshwater lake hoves into view. Look out for otters and marsh harrier, the magnificent reedbed raptor that’s rarer than a golden eagle.
Patrick Barkham, Guardian writer and author of Islander (Granta, £20)
Digbeth, Birmingham Scratch beneath Digbeth’s surface and you’ll be pleasantly surprised – I was. By repurposing dilapidated warehouses into vibrant venues, galleries, eateries and offices, this former industrial heartland just south of the city centre is now more colourful than grey. The mix of industrial heritage and innovation is alive and well at the Custard Factory (Bird’s produced their egg-free powdered custard here in the early 1900s), home of indie cinema the Mockingbird and Ghetto Golf, which offers cocktails and an 18-hole mini golf experience. Round the corner is the Clean Kilo , “the UK’s largest zero-waste supermarket”; the Night Owl on Lower Trinity Street is my favourite club in the country; and its neighbour, Digbeth Dining Club , offers street food aplenty. This neighbourhood never fails to enamour.
Richard Franks, founder-editor, Birmingham-based Counteract website
Swimming in Sussex
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Pells Pool, Lewes, the oldest freshwater public swimming pool in the UK. Photograph: Scott Ramsey/Alamy
Those seeking a break from city living in the south often end up on the Sussex coast. Seaford gets overlooked by those heading to the beaches of Brighton or Eastbourne, but that’s OK – it means I have the beach to myself. In high swell the sea here can suck you in and spit you out, but that is part of the appeal. Visit on the right tide at sunrise or sunset and it is spectacular. If I start my day in Seaford, I can head inland and get to Pells Pool in Lewes before lunch. The UK’s oldest freshwater pool makes swimming lengths joyful and Lewes, like Seaford, has independent foodie delights, so I pick up a picnic before heading a few miles north to Barcombe to finish my day with a River Ouse swim at dusk.
Ella Foote , contributing editor, Outdoor Swimmer
Orford Castle, Suffolk Like many fascinated by the past, I’m drawn to castles, a love I trace back to my first visit to Orford over 20 years ago. Stepping into one of the castle’s unlit chambers, I was confronted with a swarthy, naked man – half Robinson Crusoe, half fish. Of course it was only a wax dummy, but the story of the Orford merman, netted in the 12th century by local fishermen and kept prisoner in the castle, has stayed with me and come to define the eeriness of the Suffolk coast. The castle top offers magnificent views across Orford Ness. The “ness” is the long, shingle spit of land bisected by the River Ore, nosing out into the North Sea. Once a top-secret military site where atomic bombs were tested, it adds another layer of myth and mystery to this haunted landscape.
Caroline Millar, project manager, Discovering Britain
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Every Disney direct-to-video sequel, prequel, and mid-quel, ranked

Flipboard Before Disney started cranking out live-action adaptations of every animated property from its back catalog, the company cranked out direct-to-video (DTV) sequels that capitalized on theatrical magic. Beginning with The Return of Jafar in 1994, the Disney MovieToons animation studio and Walt Disney Television Animation produced numerous sequels, prequels, and mid-quels (side adventures taking place during the events of the original film) to be distributed by Walt Disney Home Video. In 2008, John Lasseter, then the chief creative officer of Disney’s animation division, and Disney CEO Bob Iger decided that oversaturating the market with quickly produced movies wasn’t the way to nurture Disney’s legacy IP. A decade later, the company is pumping out billion-dollar-grossing live-action remakes instead. As Dumbo — the first of Disney’s four live-action theatrical remakes this year , not including the live-action, direct-to-Disney-Plus Lady and the Tramp — flies into theaters, I took it upon myself to revisit the much-overlooked Disney direct-to-video renaissance, lest it be forgotten — and unranked. First, some rules: Qualifying movies had to be sequels to theatrically released Disney Animation films. That meant no Pixar. An Extremely Goofy Movie earns a place on the list despite Disneytoon Studios, the house behind most of Disney’s direct-to-video films, having produced A Goofy Movie; that film earned a theatrical release in 1995, warranting the sequel’s inclusion here. Not all Disney MovieToons projects qualified for the list. Notable oddities like The Jungle Book 2 and Peter Pan: Return to Neverland do not count; all three received a wide theatrical release, despite being conceived for the home video market. I almost nixed Bambi II, as it received a theatrical release in Australia, Mexico, the U.K., and a few other countries, but an absence from U.S. theaters warranted a spot on the list. Films starring tangential characters didn’t count. The Winnie the Pooh movies aren’t included because the characters joined the Disney movie character pantheon from the direct-to-video, short film, and television world. Didn’t feel right. A popular line of Tinker Bell movies is also excluded because those films make up an entirely different DTV empire. (Also, my editor specified that I include “none of that Tinker Bell shit.”) Movies made out of TV episode parts pass the sniff test. DTV movies that are stitched together from abandoned spinoff series ( Atlantis: Milo’s Return ) or unaired episodes of shows that came and went ( Tarzan and Jane ) count. VHS compilations of episodes that did make it to air ( Hercules: Zero to Hero , for instance) do not count. Television movies (two of the Lilo and Stitch titles) that were distributed by Walt Disney Home Video make the cut. I made a very difficult decision about Tangled: Before Ever After. The 2017 sequel came out nine years after Disney’s home video strategy pivoted to Tinker Bell movies. I ultimately cut Tangled: Before Ever After from consideration because, unlike Stitch! The Movie and Leroy a nd Stitch , the film was marketed as a Disney Channel Original Movie and distributed by Disney-ABC Domestic Television instead of Walt Disney Home Video (later rebranded for the Tinker Bell years as Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment). So without further ado, here is every Disney direct-to-home-entertainment sequel, prequel, and mid-quel, ranked by quality and worthiness of a revisit. Something needs to fill up Disney Plus when it launches later this year. [ Ed. note: Minor spoilers for sequels that have been out for at least 10 years and have little to no stakes.] IDK how she is using those scissors without hands. Disney 26. Belle’s Magical World (1998) In the sequel to Beauty and the Beast , Belle … confronts the emotional issues of the entire anthropomorphic object population! The first of the this-is-actually-a-bunch-of-stitched-together-TV-episodes movies, and definitely the worst, the film revolves around humdrum castle life, with Belle fixing everyone’s problems and everyone generally being an asshole to her. There is no villain in this movie. The villain is chores . At one point, two oven mitts fight over whether to make devil’s-food cake or angel food cake. The feather duster tries to kill Belle because she thinks the newcomer has a thing for Lumiere. Drama! This souffle crumbled, but that’s OK because it’s beautiful … on the inside! Disney 25. The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002) Many Disney Home Video movies introduce a random love interest for the characters who were left single in the original movie. Hunchback II is the worst offender because so much of Quasimodo’s story revolves around finding acceptance of himself. Not so fast, character growth! In the sequel, which Victor Hugo was not alive to sanction, Jennifer Love Hewitt plays Madeline, a magician’s assistant who suffers the opposite problem from Quasimodo. Everyone judges her for being too pretty! How can she be a fearless tightrope walker when everyone just comments on her looks? Insert a too-on-the-nose scene where Quasi shows her all his favorite things that are beautiful … on the inside! The quality of animation also takes a drastic hit in Hunchback II . The sequels always look a little wonky compared to the originals, but yeowch. Also, the writing team fundamentally misunderstands how bells work. The fancy bell that the villain, Sarousch, wants to steal has precious jewels on the inside. (Because the beauty is … on the inside!) They’re, like, puppies, which makes the love story hard to believe. Disney 24. Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure (2001) An even bigger DTV sequel trend than adding a new love interest is shifting the focus to the next generation. Lady and the Tramp II finds the kids of the original dogs looking and acting 100 percent the same as their mom and dad. Just like kids do in real life! Scamp, Lady and Tramp’s son who is also just a smaller clone of Tramp, is a spoiled rich kid who thinks life would be cooler on the streets. And he’s really annoying about it. After being grounded for generally being a brat, he escapes to the streets of Main Street, USA, where he meets a gang of street dogs, including the Manic Pixie Dream Dog, Angel. Angel has abandonment issues and wants a loving home, so while the two flirt, she’s repulsed by the fact that Scamp would turn his back on his loving, warm, and supportive family just to look cool. Neither character is all that sympathetic, but Scamp does get a cool song , I’ll give him that. “You and me could write a bad romance~” Disney 23. 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure (2003) Another sequel about kid dogs! Patch is more relatable than Scamp by miles. His whole thing is that he feels forgettable in his family of 101 dalmatians, which definitely makes sense, considering the family forgets him Homeward Bound -style when it moves out of London. The plot is equally forgettable: Patch, on his journey home, meets up with his idol, a celebrity dog named Thunderbolt, and tries to save the pup’s show from cancellation. The best part, though, is that Cruella De Vil is back in action and hooking up with a ridiculous artist. That’s fashion, baby! Is this A Star Is Born ? Disney 22. The Fox and the Hound 2 (2006) The original Fox and the Hound has a really interesting history of development fiascos: In short, Don Bluth departed mid-film with 13 other animators to start his own studio, which became Disney’s biggest rival for the next decade. That’s not really important, except to set the grounds for the fact that I don’t know why this sequel exists. The Fox and the Hound is not a movie begging for a follow-up. Yet The Fox and the Hound 2 does exist, and it takes place in the middle of the original movie. The gist: Copper and Tod stumble upon the county fair. A bunch of dogs sing. Tension arises because Copper turns his back on their friendship to become a country singer. Copper leaving to become a singer is never actually a threat, because the original movie has both Copper and Tod grow up. But don’t worry — Copper will turn his back on their friendship anyway in order to become a proper hunting dog. Watch me whip, watch me nae nae. Disney 21. Tarzan II (2005) Disney mid-quels too often revolve around a plot point that the original movie resolves in a montage. The entire 84-minute runtime of Tarzan II takes place within Tarzan ’s “Son of Man” montage . In the moment, Tarzan feels like he’s a shitty gorilla. But eventually, after everyone thinks he’s dead, and he runs away and befriends a solitary cave gorilla, the man of the jungle realizes his differences are his strengths. He is evolved enough to make tools. There are some endearing moments in Tarzan II — like Tarzan making the cave gorilla a special nest — but it inevitably falls into the mid-quel trap of having zero stakes. This one gets a bump above The Fox and the Hound 2 , entirely because Phil Collins returns with new songs, which are much better than a bunch of howling dogs. Mazel tov! Disney 20. Kronk’s New Groove (2005) Instead of focusing on Kuzco, the wacky emperor in The Emperor’s New Groove , who gets turned into a llama and learns how to be a decent person, the sequel focuses on the villain’s henchman, Kronk. Now, Kronk has always been a pretty decent guy who just fell in with a bad crowd somehow, but not necessarily a character demanding his own movie. He has one anyway, though! This movie revolves around Kronk dealing with the fact that he can’t match his father’s expectations of masculinity. It’s basically a Frasier episode (his father is voiced by the late John Mahoney). Kronk’s New Groove is structured like a movie made out of TV episodes, but not. The framing device of Kronk recounting his bad few weeks within another framing device of a restaurant exploding is a drag, even if the individual bits (Kronk unwittingly scams all the old people out of their money by tricking them into thinking they’re young so they all go … skateboarding; Kronk falls in love with a rival scout leader) have good moments. I’m also side-eying the decision to give Yzma a sexy cat tail. Same, Poca, same. Disney 19. Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998) The big problem with Pocahontas II is the same as the problem with Pocahontas : It’s a totally-divorced-from-real-life adaptation that plays into harmful stereotypes. The nitty-gritty of reducing the eradication of native people by white colonizers to “if we all just listened to each other!” could reach book length, so just be assured that’s it not good. (I recommend Lindsay Ellis’ video on the subject .) If you can divorce the reductive treatment of history from the story, Pocahontas II is … not terrible . Pocahontas journeys to England with John Rolfe in order to get the English king to stop killing the New World’s indigenous people. We all know how that turns out in real life, but the sequel does a better job of keeping the characterization consistent compared to some of Disney’s other sequels. John Rolfe is a million times more tolerable and adorkable than mansplainer John Smith. The main fault of Pocahontas II is that it weirdly pushes the love triangle in order to correct some of the first movie’s erasure of history, but that just makes the plot awkward. The focus shifts from Pocahontas trying to speak to the king to both the Johns giving her long, lingering looks. In order to contrive a situation where Pocahontas can feasibly fall in love with John Rolfe without cheating on John Smith, she thinks Smith is dead for the first three quarters of the movie. It twists in and out of itself in order to give a quasi-historically accurate ending that is still Disneyfied and happy. “Well, ACTUALLY …” Disney 18. Mulan II (2004) Every character in Mulan II is incredibly and massively out of character from the original film. Mulan has suddenly become a hopeless romantic, with no prior indication of this ever being a trait of hers; Mushu unlearned every single lesson from the first movie, and is a jerk for no reason; capable Captain Shang can barely function on his own. The plot barely makes sense, and it’s “resolved” with wide-open holes: Mulan and Shang are getting married, and Mushu is pissed because this means he won’t be Mulan’s guardian, so he tries to sabotage their marriage. Meanwhile, Mulan and Shang must escort the emperor’s three daughters to another kingdom for arranged marriages, part of a political alliance between China and an imaginary land to the north (spoiler: the princesses don’t end up getting married, but no one cares or says anything else about the alliance). That being said, the introduction of the three princesses is generally fun, and the biggest thing this sequel has going for it is that the music is actually good. Also, whoever animated Shang’s expressions (see above) must have had a fun time. Lips. Disney 17. Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997) The first DTV mid-quel to Beauty and the Beast co-stars Tim Curry as the voice of an organ with very, very, very detailed lips. Unlike everything else in the movie, Forte the Organ is animated with CG instead of traditional 2D work. It’s weird. Once again, Belle is at work helping her furry love interest and his family of talking Ikea furniture deal with magical imprisonment. The Beast hates Christmas, because he’s the Beast, but Belle wants to celebrate, so she gets everyone excited about it. Forte doesn’t like happiness, and hopes Beast remains emo so he can play his dreary pipe organ music forever, so he plots to ruin the holiday. The Christmas atmosphere, though, is interesting enough, as new furniture (a smart-talking hatchet! a Christmas angel diva!) pops in to help Belle and Chip spruce up the place, though why on earth the Organ With Overly Defined Lips wants to remain an organ is beyond me. Those are “come hither” eyes. Disney 16. Brother Bear 2 (2006) Another direct-to-video Disney sequel, another love interest in a world that didn’t really need one. In Brother Bear 2 , new character Nita falls in love with Kenai — the dude who got turned into a bear in the first one and decided to remain a bear — while she is very much a human and he is very much a bear. So, that happens. Technically, the two are childhood friends, though they haven’t seen each other for at least a decade. Brother Bear 2 finds Nita on the verge of marriage to a very human man, but when an earthquake shatters the ground, it’s clear the Great Spirits are angry. Turns out Kenai gave Nita an amulet in their childhood, and now the Great Spirits think they’re hitched. The solution: Burn it with him in a specific place. She seeks him out, but he refuses because, well, he’s kind of an asshole. Everyone is kind of an asshole except Nita, who really just wants to not be tied romantically to a bear forever. And yet, by the end of the movie, she’s fallen fur Kenai. Get it? He’s a bear. Disney 15. Tarzan and Jane (2002) I did enjoy this sequel’s clash of Jane and her father’s old life in England with their current jungle life. While the tangents (i.e., the episode parts) are pretty enjoyable, the weird framing narrative the writers use to connect it all made me worry about the stability of Tarzan and Jane’s relationship: Essentially, Jane wants to plan something nice for Tarzan, but every time she suggests something (party! gifts! dancing!), one of the animals reminds her of a time she tried to do something for herself and ended up scarring Tarzan. One of these stories involves Jane’s childhood friend Bobby, who is actually a spy for the enemy (we never find out which enemy) and has given Jane a decoding device that he wants back. Wild! Don’t worry, though. They were all lying to her, because Tarzan actually planned a surprise party with dancing and gifts. So that kinda saves it. Kinda. They all look uncomfortable because it’s not Robin Williams. Disney 14. The Return of Jafar (1994) The success of this sequel spawned everything else on this list, and it’s also one of the only sequels that feels warranted. At the end of Aladdin , Jafar is an all-powerful genie, and though he is trapped within the confines of his lamp, his lamp is out there, ripe for the taking … The Return of Jafar aptly features — get ready — the return of Jafar. The sorcerer-vizier-turned-genie manipulates the thief who finds his lamp in order to gain direct access to the Sultan and the rest of the gang. Meanwhile, Aladdin fights imposter syndrome at the palace, and everyone who works for the Sultan is eager to throw him under the bus. While there’s a lot of potential with this sequel, it ultimately feels a little stale, thanks in no small part to the fact that Robin Williams did not return to voice Genie (he was replaced by Dan Castellaneta, voice of Homer on The Simpsons ). My good, beautiful, wonderful son Disney 13. Atlantis: Milo’s Return (2003) The sad thing about Atlantis: Milo’s Return , which picks up in the undersea continent right after Atlantis: The Lost Empire main character Milo’s decision to stay, is that it would’ve made a thrilling animated series. But because the movie didn’t do well, Disney canceled the TV show. These three stitched-up episodes have so much potential. The Atlantis crew goes around the world tackling different legends and myths come to life, with an eventual crossover with Gargoyles . It would’ve been a fun show — it just doesn’t work as a coherent movie. Milo’s Return is a bit of a misnomer, as Milo takes a back seat here for his badass wife Kidagakash. The strength of Atlantis has always been its kooky ensemble cast, and this Frankenstein’s monster of an animated movie uses them well. Attention must be paid to the adorable lava rock dog Obby , who really should’ve launched a line of plush merch. He munches on rocks and sleeps in fireplaces! It actually has some really cute moments. Disney 12. Bambi II (2006) Out of all the Disney mid-quels, Bambi II has something to dig into: showing what happened between the death of Bambi’s mother and his adolescence, a time span skipped over in the original movie. It’s actually a pretty touching tale of father and son learning to communicate with one another. Bambi struggles to prove his worth to his austere, distant dad; the Great Prince (voice by Patrick Stewart) struggles to be a present father. While that’s heartwarming, a fabricated conflict with Ronno — a young deer who everyone hates and is generally an asshole — slows down the movie to dangerous levels. I dozed off, but woke up in time for some touching father-son moments. The Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to the Lion King’s Hamlet. Disney 11. The Lion King 1½ (2004) When I was 8, I thought The Lion King 1½ was the absolute funniest movie that ever existed. I went into this list assuming it was far superior to everything else and was guaranteed the top spot. Perhaps that incredibly high set of expectations is why The Lion King 1½ fell a little flat to me on rewatch. The jokes are funny for young kids (or parents with young kids). The framing device of Timon and Pumbaa watching the movie contributes to its best moments; part of me wishes the movie was just them talking and interacting with the other Disney characters. In The Lion King 1½ , Timon and Pumbaa tell the story of The Lion King , but this time from their point of view. We see Timon’s frustration with life as a meerkat before he met Pumbaa, and with his overbearing mother and paranoid uncle. The best sequence of the movie (sans theatrical framing) is a closer look at how Timon and Pumbaa raised Simba; other than that, fart jokes can only sustain so much wind (heh). And thus, a line of cute plush merch was born Disney 10. Stitch! The Movie (2003) This movie existed to set up the Lilo & Stitch animated series, revealing that there are 625 other experiments besides Stitch and that an evil scientist named Dr. Hämsterviel wants to use them for his own gain. It ends on a cliffhanger — Lilo and Stitch rescue one of the experiments and find it a home, but the rest are still out there. The message of Stitch finding his family is pretty sweet, even if the final resolution is left dangling wide open — what about the other 624 experiments?! — in order to set the stage for the TV show, which would run for three seasons from 2003-2006. It’s not as funny as the first movie, and some of the charm of Lilo & Stitch — like Lilo and Stitch surfing, or Lilo and Nani’s sister relationship — is lost in favor of chasing a new alien and introducing the rabbitlike villain who just wants world domination. What if Stitch … but evil? Disney 9. Leroy & Stitch (2006) Leroy & Stitch is the opposite bookend of Stitch! The Movie , wrapping the events of the spinoff TV series. When we pick up with this adventure, all the experiments have been found and the aliens have no hesitation in totally abandoning Lilo to go back to space. Seriously. It’s kinda rude. But Dr. Hämsterviel creates a super evil experiment named Leroy (aka red Stitch), and wants to use it to take over the world. This one follows a similar vein as Stitch! The Movie : a focus on the aliens and space, instead of the charming characters. What gives this one a leg up, though, is that because it takes place at the end of the series, all 626 experiments have been recruited. And they all have wacky and really specific powers. Cloudy , the cloud experiment, rains on people; Babyfier turns adults into babies; Hammerface has a … hammer for a face. We get to see what they’ve all been up to after acclimating to life on Hawaii (Cloudy helps keep vegetables fresh), and see them in action in the final battle. Sebastian throws down. Disney 8. The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning (2008) Imagine Footloose without feet. (Fun fact: The love interest in Footloose is also named Ariel.) Ariel’s Beginning takes place before the events of both The Little Mermaid and the tie-in television series (which may also have been nullified by this movie’s existence, depending on how seriously you follow Disney canon). In the past, after the death of his wife, King Triton outlawed all music. (As a reasonable person does.) His daughters live by strict schedules, but Ariel just wants to have fun. She stumbles upon an underground music club, and the rest is history. The villain, the mermaid sisters’ strict governess, is forgettable, mainly because her motivations revolve around corralling the king’s rebellious daughters and not pissing him off. Anyone who’s had to watch a group of teenagers can sympathize, so she feels like a weak bad guy. There are elements of Ariel’s Beginning that are really amusing — Sebastian, for instance, becomes the lead singer in the underground club. Ariel’s sisters have sprinklings of unique personalities (one is super sarcastic, one more ditzy; the oldest is the responsible mother figure), but they only get a few lines each in favor of Ariel. Flounder is now a badass who gets arrested after said illegally sanctioned club gets busted. Considering he’s the ultimate coward in the actual Little Mermaid movie, it’s a bit of a stretch. But it’s not the worst mischaracterization of the DTV movies (hello, Mulan II ). The best part is Benjamin the manatee, who sorta mumbles and follows the villainess around. Cinderella, friend of the proletariat. Disney 7. Cinderella II: Dreams Come True (2002) Out of all the “this movie is actually a couple of shorts,” Cinderella II: Dreams Come True shines the brightest, giving Cinderella more agency than she has in the original. In the first short, she shuns the drapings of tradition in order to usher in a more egalitarian society, breaking ground by inviting the peasants to socialize with the royalty. Anyone who says Cinderella isn’t a feminist needs to watch Cinderella II: Dreams Come True , where the Disney Princess challenges the stifling roles of women and uses her new position as princess to actively to dismantle the rigid class system. The other two follow Jacques the mouse as he turns into a human (delightfully goofy!) and ugly stepsister Anastasia finding love (surprisingly sweet!). All in all, the most solid of the stitched-together-episode sequels, with a framing device — the mice making a storybook about their new adventures in the castle — that doesn’t detract from or complicate the narrative. Max with Bradley Uppercrust III. Disney 6. An Extremely Goofy Movie (2000) Like fellow animated dog Scamp before him, Max just wants to be cool. Unlike Scamp, Max is an infinitely more likeable character. Where A Goofy Movie revolved around Max learning to accept and embrace his father, An Extremely Goofy movie brings Max and Goofy to college and focuses on Goofy learning to let Max go. The movie borders on being too ridiculous; the close focus on the college X Games, as well as some of the more bogus animation choices (see the smile above) are stuck in a gnarly late-’90s vortex. Bradley Uppercrust III, the villain, is somehow a preppy frat superstar, a skater bro, a mafia crony, and an unhinged sociopath wrapped up into one alarming package. But it’s all delightfully bonkers. The best parts involve a Beret Girl , and one line in which Bobby questions the very nature of the Disney universe by asking why all the characters wear gloves . Keep it PG, kids. Disney 5. The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998) In his middle age, Simba has grown to be uncomfortably prejudiced and racist, kind of like Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman . In the movie, a group of lions who supported Scar (but not his offspring, let’s remember that) have been exiled to the Outlands by Simba. They’re led by Zira, the Bellatrix Lestrange to Scar’s Voldemort, who is convinced that her son Kovu (remember, not Scar’s kid, even though they look exactly alike) is destined to be King of Pride Rock. This kind of pisses off Zira’s other two kids, especially because Kovu is the youngest. Simba’s plucky daughter, Kiara, meets Kovu when they’re kids. When they’re adults, Zira sends Kovu to infiltrate Pride Rock, but that backfires because Kovu and Kiara fall in love. (Remember, Kovu is not Scar’s kid , so it’s OK. They just look alike!) Still, no one supports their love, least of all Simba. Rafiki winds up intervening by taking them to some weird pocket of the jungle with a Tunnel of Love-esque ride. They get frisky. Despite some of the hiccups (why is Simba like this?), ultimately The Lion King II has a cohesive and compelling plot, which is more than can be said for every other movie before. Eventually Simba comes around, which, years down the road, birthed this Vine . Hello , sir. Disney 4. Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996) In some circles, this movie is also known as Aladdin and His Incredibly Hot Sexy-Voiced Father . When I was a lass, I had a crush on Aladdin. Now that I’m grown, I see that Aladdin is just a boy, but his father, Cassim … is a man. Hot Daddy aside, Aladdin and the King of Thieves is an adventure-filled romp. Aladdin learns his father is alive and now the leader of a pack of bandits known as the Forty Thieves — the same thieves who just tried to rob the royal wedding. Is Aladdin’s dad still motivated by greed? Will they repair their relationship? Unlike a lot of the other sequels, King of Thieves actually takes into account what happened in Return of Jafar : The head guard still has it out for Aladdin, and Iago has joined the good guys but feels bored in the palace walls. Robin Williams returns as Genie in this one, and the difference between King of Thieves and Return of the Jafar from that casting alone is palpable. We get to see more of this cool world and explore other mythology from the Arabian Nights source material. Do they have beer underwater? Can I even call that a beer belly ? Is it a … kelp belly? Disney 3. The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000) What makes The Little Mermaid II better than the other kid sequels is that Melody — Ariel and Eric’s daughter — as a character is more interesting and developed. Ariel, like Simba before her, still makes irrational decisions, though her behavior is slightly more tolerable because she’s typically headstrong and known for disregarding her family’s wishes. This time around, she decides that because her kid is in danger from “Ursula’s crazy sister” (Sebastian’s words, not mine), she must shield little Melody from the underwater world — so she cuts off all contact with her mermaid family for 12 years. Twelve years! Melody grows up feeling like a “fish out of water” (her words, not mine) and has no idea mermaids exist, even though she’s friends with Sebastian and thus can talk to crabs. She just wants to fit in! And considering how rude the other kids are to her, it’s understandable. Like her mom, she’s a bit of an oddball and just wants to belong. Unlike her mom’s story, Melody’s isn’t catapulted because she saw a hot guy. Overall, Return to the Sea has higher stakes and picks up at a more interesting time than the previous sequels, especially the kid-driven ones. And for once, it’s fun to see the roles the older characters play. Best part? The reveal that Flounder now has five kids and a beer gut. I won’t spoil how we get to this scene, because you should watch this movie. Disney 2. Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007) From its very first moment, Cinderella III yanks the viewer and takes them on a baffling, bonkers journey of time travel, ridiculously overpowered wands, and the power of true love. Every second of it is delightful. I’ll stand by the opinion that out of the currently released Disney live-action movies, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella (2015) is the strongest. The original movie is timeless, yes, but also very much a blank slate to build upon, which means that the stepsisters can steal the Fairy Godmother’s wand and use it to create an alternate timeline of events — and it adds to the original instead of detracting. In this threequel, instead of just being a dreamboat who can’t remember his lover’s face (they answer the whole shoe thing), the prince is a hopeless romantic who’s not afraid to risk it all for true love. Cinderella is gutsy and determined. The King has a secret soft spot. Anastasia gets a fully fleshed out arc that prompts her believable turn of heart. Yes, yes, the movie slightly erases the events of Cinderella II (where Anastasia falls in love), but it also officially erases the events of the first movie by the end, so really, I can’t complain. Look, it’s very good. Disney 1. Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005) Lilo & Stitch didn’t work because it was about a cute, quirky alien — it worked because that cute, quirky alien went to Hawaii. The other two Lilo & Stitch sequels were just fine, but they didn’t capture the essence of what made the original special, choosing instead to focus on aliens. Stitch Has a Glitch , however, manages to balance the alien story with the human one. Lilo wants to enter a hula competition to make her late mother proud. But something disrupting Stitch’s hardware threatens to ruin it. The best parts of Stitch Has a Glitch focus on the mundane meeting the extraterrestrial: Lilo and Stitch are late to hula practice, so they take a hovercraft; Nani wants the whole family, aliens and David included, to have a movie night. The first film had a sly commentary on the greater social backdrop of Hawaii: Lilo took pictures of tourists instead of them taking pictures of her (a deleted scene where she and Stitch set off a tsunami alarm hammers this point home). Stitch Has a Glitch actually continues that thematic undercurrent. While white classmate Mertle does a hula dance to advertise her father’s gift shop, Lilo pays homage to an old Hawaiian legend. It’s a touching reminder that the Lilo & Stitch franchise is more than funny alien gags. Overall, the movie verges on being cheesy, but it is a satisfying, heartwarming type of goo, with very funny moments and gags. Some sticklers might argue that many details in this movie cancel out things the series would later establish; I am here to argue that Stitch Has a Glitch keeps the spirit of the original Lilo & Stitch much better than the animated series, and thus, it is the one that should be considered the best of the Lilo & Stitch sequels — nay, the best of them all.

***Live Updates*** No Collusion: Trump Takes Victory Lap in Michigan | Breitbart

Trump Border Shutdown Threat Russia Hoaxsters Brexit Rejected — Again! Cartel Narco-Terror Jussie Drama Ocasio-Cortez ***Live Updates*** No Collusion: Trump Takes Victory Lap in Michigan TONY LEE 28 Mar 2019 President Donald Trump is expected to take a victory lap when he holds a “Total Exoneration” rally Thursday evening in Grand Rapids, Michigan, just days after Attorney General William Barr revealed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation “did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated” with the Russians in 2016.
Stay tuned to Breitbart News for live updates. All times eastern.

8:51 PM: Trump concludes electric rally where he previewed a coming attraction at the border (Trump said he will showcase brand new sections of the wall.) and demanded that Mexico do more about the migrant caravans:
Trump says Mexico should stop migrant caravans from entering the U.S.
“If they don’t — and I’m telling you right now — we will close the damn border,” he says.
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) March 29, 2019
8:43 PM: Trump says he won’t forget that his voters, the smartest and the greatest, stood with him against the rigged power structure in DC. Trump says his voters have always been loyal to the country and now they have a president who is loyal to them. Trump says Democrats have taken Michigan for granted, but he will never, ever, ever, ever take Michigan voters for granted.
“I am fighting for your jobs, your life, your community with everything I have and I will never, ever stop,” Trump says. “We are winning so big–nobody ever thought it would happen.”
8:41 PM: Trump says we believe that children should be taught to respect and be proud of our country while respecting the great American flag. Crowd chants “USA! USA!”
8:38 PM: Trump says the Republican Party is the “party of the American dream” and claims every day he makes good on the “promises made, promises kept” motto.
8:37 PM: Trump rips Democrats for “executing” babies with their “extreme, late-term abortion” fanaticism. He says Democrats have never been further outside of the mainstream.
8:35 PM: Trump says he will soon visit the border and show that “vast sections” of a “brand new wall” have been built.
Trump blast Democrats for supporting amnesty and sanctuary cities because they want voters. He mocks those seeking asylum, saying many of the “rough” people who have been coached by left-wing lawyers look like heavyweight champions. Trump talks about the “invasion” at the border and says he wants to be the jobs, safety, and security of American citizens first.
He says America should be a sanctuary for law-abiding Americans and not for criminal aliens. He again praises ICE patriots and the heroes of Border Patrol.
“Get the damn plants open. Get them open. Now.” Trump says about closing GM plants.
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) March 29, 2019
8:22 PM: Trump says his administration lives by two simple rules: “buy American, hire American.”
“And we’re already seeing the results,” Trump says before listing off various investments auto companies have made in Michigan and the Heartland.
8:21 PM: Trump now ripping the TPP and reminding Michigan voters that he withdrew from it. Trump says Michigan, with its empty factory floors, still hasn’t recovered from NAFTA, which he says will be a “thing of the past.” He wants to go back to “pre-NAFTA.”
😎🇺🇸President Trump in Michigan: “The Democrats have to now decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with ridiculous bullshit… partisan investigations, or whether they will apologize to the American people.”
— 🇺🇸 Patriot 24/7 🇺🇸 (@FlipitRed2020) March 29, 2019
8:20 PM: Trump says he’ll close “the damn border” if Mexico doesn’t stop the caravans.
Crowd starts chanting “Build That Wall” and “USA!”
8:18 PM: Trump says Mexico needs to stop the “rush to the border” and he says, “if they don’t, it’s going to cost them a helluva lot of money.
8:17 PM: Trump says Mexico, which he says has the “toughest immigration laws in the world,” needs to do more to help America with enforcement. Trump again says other countries aren’t giving us their best people after ripping the visa lottery system–“that’s another beauty.”
8:15 PM: Trump says he knocked Pocahontas out of the race and says he asked himself, “What did I do that for?” He says he should have waited nine months.
8:11 PM: Trump slams Democrats for their “cynical” politics of of “radicalism, resistance, and resistance.”
He says the Democrats are advancing an extreme government takeover called the Green New Deal.
Trump says he doesn’t want to talk about the Green New Deal right now because he wants to run against it in 2020.
“No more airplanes, no more cows,” Trump says. “One car per family. You’re gonna love that in Michigan.”
Trump now mocks electric cars–“where do I get a charge, darling?–and says he wants a lot of cars for families so they can lead great lives.
8:05 PM: Trump says the Republican Party will become the party of health care after again referencing John McCain’s “thumbs down” vote. Trump says Obamacare is bankrupting Americans and nobody should go bankrupt because of health care. Trump vows to protect patients with pre-existing conditions even though his administration does not yet have a healthcare plan to “replace” Obamacare.
Trump: “We have a chance of killing Obamacare” in court. “We almost did it” in congress. “But somebody unfortunately surprised us with thumbs down. We’ll do it again.”
— Jonathan Oosting (@jonathanoosting) March 29, 2019
7:58 PM: Trump says “go get yourself a good socialist” if you want to see a “good deflation.”
7:57 PM: Trump pivots to America’s economic revival and says America’s economy is the “hottest” in the world. He rehashes his “geniuses” line about 401ks. He talks about rising wages, especially for blue-collar workers. He says the unemployment rate has reached the lowest in 51 years. Trump says he got criticized for asking black voters, “what do you have to lose?” Trump talks about the lowest unemployment rates for minorities and disabled Americans.
7:53 PM: Trump says “it’s time.”
BREAKING NEWS: Trump says “I’m going to get full funding of $300M for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.”
— Richard Burr (@RichardBurr_DN) March 28, 2019
“I am going to get full funding of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration. Which you have been trying to get for over 30 years!” @realDonaldTrump That is amazing news for Michigan! That’s OUR President!
— Michigan GOP (@MIGOP) March 28, 2019
7:51 PM: Trump mocks Jussie Smollett–he says he claims he was attacked by “MAGA country.”
At Michigan rally, Pres. Trump weighs in on Jussie Smollett case: “Maybe the only time I’ve ever agreed with the mayor of Chicago.”
“That’s an embarrassment, not only to Chicago, that is an embarrassment to our country what took place there.”
— ABC News (@ABC) March 29, 2019
“Maybe the only time I’ve ever agreed with the mayor of Chicago,” Trump says. He says “that’s a terrible situation” and what took place in Chicago is “an embarrassment to Chicago” and an “embarrassment to our country.”
7:48 PM:
Trump asks whether Democrats will have to decide if they want to continue defrauding the public with “ridiculous bullshit” or apologize for the Russia collusion hoax.
Trump says the Russia collusion hoax is why it’s important to “finish what we came here to do–drain the swamp.”
Trump reminisces about election night in 2016 when his audience at 1AM was larger than Hillary’s in prime time. He mocks the media for predicting it would be a “short evening” for Trump. Crowd chants “four more years!”
Trump says we cannot criminalize political differences and talks about law enforcement and intelligence agencies that spied on him.
“They spied on me,” Trump says.
He says they eventually won against the deep state and “it’s a beautiful thing…They tried taking something great.”
Trump bashes media at Michigan rally over Russia investigation, calls journalists “bad people” and says there must be “accountability.” Crowd chants “lock them up!”
— Jon Passantino (@passantino) March 28, 2019
7:39 PM: Trump ridicules Hillary Clinton for not going to Wisconsin and speaks about how Michigan was his last campaign stop in 2016.
7:35 PM: Trump Mocks Adam “Pencil Neck” Schiff.
Trump blasts the Democrats and the media bosses and the crooked journalists and the totally dishonest TV pundits–“group of major losers”–who have harmed the country.
“They tried to divide our country, to poison the national debate, to tear up the fabric of our great democracy,” Trump says. “They did it all because they refuse to accept the results of one of the greatest presidential elections—probably no. 1—in our history.”
Trump says many many people were hurt by the scam and blasts little “pencil neck” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who Trump says has “the smallest, thinnest neck I’ve ever seen. He is not a long-ball hitter.
“Sick, sick, these are sick people,” Trump says. “There has to be accountability because it’s all lies. They know it’s lies.”
Crowd chants “lock her up” after Trump talks about the “fake, dirty dossier” that Crooked Hillary and the Democrats paid for..
Trump says maybe he got lucky because even the fake news didn’t even believe it.
“Thank you very much, I appreciate it. You never know,” Trump says.
Trump says the effort by Democrats, the media, and the Deep State to overturn the 2016 election has failed—”the greatest election we’ve had in a long time, maybe right from the beginning.” He says it was nothing more than a “sinister effort” to undermine the results of the 2016 election. Trump says there has “never been anything like what we did” in 2016. “We defeated a very corrupt establishment and we kept our promise to the American people, and it’s driving them crazy,” Trump says. “Today, our movement and our country are thriving. Their fraud has been exposed. The credibility of those who pushed the hoax is forever broken. And they’ve now got big problems.” He says Mueller was a God to Democrats until he said “no collusion.” “They don’t like him so much right now,” Trump says. “The Russia witch hunt was a plan by those who lost the election to try and illegally regain power by framing innocent Americans, many of them, they suffered, with an elaborate hoax,” Trump says
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) March 28, 2019
7:25 PM: T rump says after three years of lies and slander, “the Russia hoax is finally dead. The collusion delusion is over.”
Trump pumped to be back in the Heartland. Crowd chanting “USA! USA!” He says he’s bringing a lot of the car companies back — “they’re pouring in.” He says this has been an “incredible couple of weeks for America.” He says the economy is roaring and ISIS is defeated 100%.
“Robert Mueller was a god to Democrats, was a god to them, until he said there was no collusion. They don’t like him so much right now,” Trump says at a rally in Michigan
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) March 28, 2019
7:20 PM: Trump, with, as Trump Jr. said, the “monkey off of his back,” now appears on stage. Raucous crowd awaits.
Pres Trump pumps fist as he takes the stage at political rally.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) March 28, 2019
7:00 PM:
Trump is wheels down in Michigan.
Addressing rally before his father, @DonaldJTrumpJr says his dad “had a pretty good week.” He cited “vindication” by Mueller Report, House failure to override his veto and a new meaning for MAGA: “Michael Avenatti Got Arrested.”
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) March 28, 2019
Among the choice puns from @DonaldTrumpJr in his warm-up for the president tonight:
“Adam ‘Full of’ Schiff”
“So much bull-Schiff”
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) March 28, 2019
Overheard while walking the line outside Trump’s Grand Rapids, MI rally: “he’s gonna go off the rails tonight!” Supporters prepared for a memorable night.
— Ali Vitali (@alivitali) March 28, 2019
Here in Grand Rapids, MI, Don Trump Jr is warming up the crowd, blasting the Green New Deal. Crowd starts chanting, “AOC SUCKS! AOC SUCKS!”
— Terry Moran (@TerryMoran) March 28, 2019
6:35 PM:
Speaking to local reporters, Donald Trump Jr. says the Russia Collusion hoax was the greatest hoax perpetrated upon the American people and says the media have done “irreparable damage” in pushing the Russia Collusion hoax.
A very 2020 sign, and a very 2016 sign, outside today’s Trump rally in Grand Rapids
— Jonathan Oosting (@jonathanoosting) March 28, 2019
Michigan GOP Chair Laura Cox at Trump rally: Liberals pushed “a phony investigation for two years to look for collusion with Russia and they came up empty.”
— Jonathan Oosting (@jonathanoosting) March 28, 2019
“Lock her up!” chants already ringing out during Trump’s Grand Rapids rally pre-show after Laura Cox, chair of the Michigan GOP, says the media and Democrats need to “get over it” and accept that Donald Trump won
— Jill Colvin (@colvinj) March 28, 2019
Warming up the crowd for Trump, MI GOP chairwoman Laura Cox is going back through the 2016 election, attacking Hillary Clinton for hanging out with Hollywood elite including Harvey Weinstein instead of autoworkers.
— Tarini Parti (@tparti) March 28, 2019
@GOPChairwoman @MIGOPChair #TrumpInMichigan #Trump2020
— meshawn maddock (@meshawnmaria) March 28, 2019
On my way to Grand Rapids, Michigan right now. See you all very soon! #MAGA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2019
Here we go: President Trump is off to Grand Rapids, Michigan for his first rally since the Mueller investigation concluded.
Buckle up.
— Jonathan Lemire (@JonLemire) March 28, 2019
I thought I was going crazy because I kept smelling like a super strong incense? Turns out the anti-Trump protestors across the street are burning sage.
— Emily Lawler (@emilyjanelawler) March 28, 2019
In #GrandRapids #Michigan for the first #Trump rally since the #MuellerReport found no collusion. The crowd just may be into this one tonight…
— Kevin Corke (@kevincorke) March 28, 2019
@seanhannity it’s a sea of red hats here in Grand Rapids!!!
— Roy Couch (@royboy138) March 28, 2019
President Trump will hold a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan tonight. The president had a historic upset here in 2016, he was the first Republican to win the state in nearly 30 years.
It’s the President’s first rally since the release of the special counsel summary.
— Rachel Scott (@rachelvscott) March 28, 2019
There’s now a live band playing. People selling Pres. Trump gear. Pretty heavy police presence.
The line for the rally extends a couple blocks down Ionia Ave SW.
— Katherine Ducharme (@KD_WOODTV8) March 28, 2019
The line for @POTUS rally tonight at @VanAndelArena is starting to wrap around the corner of Hop Cat.
— Katherine Ducharme (@KD_WOODTV8) March 28, 2019
Pres Trump said he’s going to a rally in Michigan to trumpet return of manufacturing to the state, including car companies. “It’s a great thing so see,” he says. Michigan played a key role in his 2016 election victory. He narrowly won the state with 47.3% over Clinton’s 47.0%.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) March 28, 2019
Politics Donald Trump Michigan Robert Mueller russia collusion Total Exoneration

Without Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, most

Ted Cruz has been especially critical of Section 230 Photo: Getty Without Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, most of your favorite websites would not survive—nor would they have existed at all. The modern internet would be a much different place without this short little bit of legislation that has become a sort of First Amendment of the web. Now, a growing contingent of conservative voices are beginning to call for a reevaluation of 230 and we really need to consider the consequences.
All of the most frequented websites—save for Netflix—became popular, top revenue-generators in a global digital economy because they allow users to share their opinions, photos, memes, GIFs, videos, and yes, even nudes. That’s all thanks to Section 230. Its text states that, with few exceptions, websites and services like Yelp, Reddit, and Facebook cannot be held liable for the content created by their users. In the absence of Section 230, Wikipedia could never handle the liability inherent in having armies of users curate openly editable pages—not when they could be sued out of existence for something a single editor wrote.
It’s curious, then, why Section 230, long understood to be the “most important law protecting internet speech ,” is now under almost constant attack by influential conservatives in Congress. Why would anyone want to dismantle the law that, at the very least, transformed the web from a network of millions into a fluid space where more than 3.2 billion instantly share their ideas? Absent a desire to watch the thing burn, there are two possibilities. Neither is flattering.
On the one hand, it may be that some lawmakers are simply ignorant of the actual purpose behind Section 230. (Several experts on the law believe this is the case.) On the other, they could simply be looking to score some cheap political points. It’s more likely a combination of the two. For example, while grilling Mark Zuckerberg in a congressional hearing last year, Senator Ted Cruz told the Facebook co-founder : “The predicate for Section 230 immunity under the CDA is that you’re a neutral public forum.” And while this isn’t anywhere close to being accurate, it may be precisely what the Texas lawmaker’s constituents—those who feel their opinions are currently less popular or being drowned out—want to hear.
But the truth is, Section 230 protects all websites, whether they’re politically oriented or not.
Take, for instance, the Daily Wire, a news site run by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. A quick peek at a few articles will show that its users routinely leave disparaging comments about the subjects of its reporting. But even if a comment did cross the defamatory threshold, under Section 230, neither Shapiro nor the Daily Wire could be held liable. This is by no means, as Cruz put it, a “neutral public forum.” (Neither is this site, for that matter.) Nor is the liberal internet forum Daily Kos. It doesn’t matter: Section 230 does not place additional liability on websites that cater to a particular viewpoint, and the idea that it should is ludicrous.
The notion that website owners should, by default, face a greater risk of being sued and put out of business, simply because of their political affiliations, seems hardly constitutional. In fact, it seems downright dangerous. Yet this is precisely the notion being tossed around as of late by seasoned Washington lawmakers; among them, so-called strict interpreters of the U.S. Constitution.
For another example, look no further than Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican of Missouri, who last year tweeted that Congress should investigate the company Twitter because (for reasons that remain unclear) it temporarily suspended the account of a right-wing talk-show host. In a clear reference to Section 230, he wrote: “Twitter is exempt from liability as a ‘publisher’ because it is allegedly ‘a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.’”
We’re not in a position to decide why they published something and why they chose not to publish something else. That’s a losing game. That’s not merely a minor misinterpretation of the law; it’s a blatant falsehood. And it’s difficult to understand how he came to that conclusion. (We’ve reached out to Hawley’s office to explain his comments, and we’ll update when we hear back.)
Laws are sometimes overly vague and even labyrinthine in their text. But Section 230 is not one of them. The key provision, what is essentially responsible for allowing all user-generated content to exist, is only 26 words long. And it says this:
“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
It means that if you, reader, operate an online forum, chatroom, or blog where your visitors can leave comments, post pictures, GIFs, or video, you cannot be sued into oblivion for anything your users post. If that were the case, why would you let any user post anything on your site? Without this immunity, YouTube, were it even to exist at all, would more closely resemble television programming; a service, perhaps, run by a team of people who closely scrutinizing every video, which would only be produced by creators the company had previously vetted.
Unable to predict what outrageous things consumers might say, online reviews, such as those heavily relied upon by Amazon customers, would not be possible. And webcams? Forget about it.
Compuserve, Prodigy, and Untaming the web The internet didn’t always enjoy this freedom. Back in the early 1990s, on an internet with fewer than 50 million users, there were essentially two types of online services: those that took a hardline approach to free speech and made no effort to police the online forums or bulletin boards they operated, and those that wanted to moderate user content to prevent the spread of obscene material, in the hopes of creating a “family friendly” service. Unfortunately, the court decisions relied upon by judges in the ‘90s to determine who should and should not be held liable for illicit content were all relics of a radically different era.
More than a half-century ago, the Supreme Court decided there’s a difference between someone who, say, publishes a book and a person who sells one. The chief difference, it found, was that the latter could not, under most circumstances, be held responsible for what someone else had written.
“There was this odd rule under the First Amendment that had come out of cases from the 1950s and the Supreme Court involving booksellers and whether a bookseller could be liable for obscene material they sold if they didn’t know of the material,” said Jeff Kosseff, a cybersecurity professor at the U.S. Naval Academy. “And what the Supreme Court said was, if you’re a distributor of content, under the First Amendment, you can only be held liable if you knew or should have known of the illegal content.”
It’s unreasonable to assume that a person who runs a bookstore or a library or a newsstand is capable of comprehending what’s contained in every piece of literature they sell. It is, however, a publisher’s job specifically to know that. Part of being a publisher is reviewing, editing, and fact-checking every book that crosses their table. These are two different types of literary distributors, but only one of them is required to intimately know their product.
Unfortunately, this method of gauging liability did not translate well when it came to the internet and the disparity in the outcomes of two notable cases underscored the need for a new law.
In the first case, a court found in 1991 that CompuServe, one of the internet’s first major service providers, could not be held responsible for the libelous content posted by its users. The reason is that, because CompuServe had no policy of reviewing its users’ content, the court found it was more analogous to a bookseller.
Conversely, a court determined four years later that Prodigy, another early provider, could be held responsible. Unlike CompuServe, Prodigy did have a policy of moderating its user content. In that way, it was more akin to a publisher. Simply because it had made an effort to eradicate anything obscene or abusive from its online forums, a gavel was dropped on Prodigy’s head.
Put differently, the civil justice system had created a financial incentive for online businesses to ignore anything illegal or defamatory posted by users. But thankfully, in 1996, there were two lawmakers in Congress who foresaw the potential of the internet to usher in a new era of economic growth, and they quickly moved to amend the law accordingly.
Authored by Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, and Rep. Christopher Cox, a Republican, Section 230 was a simple and elegant solution. It was introduced as an amendment to the Communication Decency Act (CDA), the goal of which, as its title suggests, is to regulate the spread of online pornography. In his new book, The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet , Kosseff describes how Section 230, a law that would become pivotal to the internet’s success, was passed to little fanfare:
“The bill’s proposal and passage flew under the radar. Section 230 received virtually no opposition or media coverage, as it was folded into the more controversial Communications Decency Act, which was added to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a sweeping overhaul of U.S. telecommunications laws. Beltway media and lobbyists focused on the regulation of long-distance carriers, local phone companies, and cable providers, believing that these companies would share the future of communications. What most failed to anticipate was that online platforms—such as websites, social media companies, and apps—would play a far greater role in shaping the future of the Internet than would the cables and wires that physically connected computers.”
“The beauty of Section 230 is that it moots the need to inquire about why the service made the decisions that it made,” said Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law. “We’re not in a position to decide why they published something and why they chose not to publish something else. That’s a losing game. Section 230 says let’s not do that, let’s just have a categorical rule: It says third-party content, the online services aren’t liable for it; unless it sits along the statutory exceptions.”
Since the beginning, Goldman says, Section 230’s immunity has always excluded federal criminal prosecutions. “This wasn’t an accident. There never was an absolute immunity from liability for third-party content.” Additionally, the law also does not protect companies from intellectual property infringement. Last year, Congress created another carveout with the passage of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA): A controversial amendment to Section 230 touted as a means of combating sex trafficking, FOSTA clarifies that companies can be held responsible for content advertising prostitution (even when posted by consensual sex workers).
You’re given this remarkable legal benefit, and if you’re not going to meet your end of the bargain, that becomes viewed as arrogant. Advertisement
What the handful of GOP lawmakers are aiming for today are new exceptions that would, according to experts, cripple the internet. It isn’t hyperbole.
Sen. Hawley, for instance, has repeatedly implied that changes to Section 230 should now be on the table. As Reason reported , he’s called the provision a “sweetheart deal” for Silicon Valley. “Google and Facebook should not be a law unto themselves,” he said, being interviewed this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). “They should not be able to discriminate against conservatives. They should not be able to tell conservatives to sit down and shut up.”
“The critiques of 230 usually are ill-informed,” says Goldman, who openly admits he’s a staunch supporter of the law and has a tough time seeing anywhere it needs changing. Calls to amend the law, he adds, “are often being advanced for political reasons that have nothing to do with the validity of Section 230 or its benefits for the internet.” Dismantling it entirely, he said, would be an unmitigated disaster.
“If we reconfigure Section 230,” he added, “one likely scenario is that the only third-party content that an online publisher would publish would come from professional sources that could have vetting processes for that content. They would have to stand behind that content with an indemnity or insurance.”
On this point, Kosseff agreed.
“I think if you eliminate Section 230 you will see some pretty remarkable changes. You can even see that in what happened after FOSTA was passed,” he said. “I think it was two days after it passed in the Senate, but before it was even signed into law, Craigslist eliminated its personals ads. You might say, ‘Well, that’s not necessarily a huge social problem.’ But imagine if they got rid of all of Section 230, who else would eliminate the ability for people to freely post online?”
The implicit answer is: Everyone who knows what’s good for them.
Moderating to the Extreme By their own mismanagement, companies like YouTube and Facebook are eliciting increased scrutiny from the media, members of the public, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Extremist and terrorist propaganda are proliferating. Democracy, some argue, hangs in the balance. “You’re given this remarkable legal benefit, and if you’re not going to meet your end of the bargain, that becomes viewed as arrogant,” Kosseff says.
This was never more noticeable than when footage of the Christchurch terrorist attack in New Zealand recently spread like wildfire across multiple platforms. Calls for companies to more quickly eliminate extremist content intensified. So did the criticism of their past efforts. Propaganda is proving exceptionally difficult to tackle because, while the companies can more easily delete content they find originates with a foreign disinformation campaign, the primary sources of disinformation nowadays is domestic.
“Tech companies certainly need to continue to be far more vigorous about identifying, fingerprinting and blocking content and individuals who incite hate and violence,” Sen. Wyden said recently in a statement. “If politicians want to restrict the First Amendment or eliminate the tools with which much of the world communicates in real time, they should understand they are also taking away the tools that bear witness to government brutality, war crimes, corporate lawlessness and incidents of racial bias.”
“Banning such platforms either directly or indirectly,” he added, “will do far more harm and facilitate far more injustice than they would prevent.”
While the major social networks have taken “some steps” to counteract the spread of disinformation, a recent report from the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights concluded that Facebook and, in particular, YouTube continue to employ “a piecemeal approach” to the problem. This, as opposed to any exhaustive measures that would offset or negate the deluge of disinformation from which, incidentally, they also hugely directly profit.
While “reducing the prominence of false content,” by “cobbling together a reliance on legal obligations” through enforcement of what Facebook likes to call “community standards,” researchers found that the companies have mostly failed or avoided outright embracing a straightforward commitment to removing it.
While Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently appeared on a podcast run by a notable purveyor of anti-vaccination theories, Facebook was forced to remove ads posted by another prominent so-called “anti-vaxxer” who had spent more than $5,000 to target, among others, women the Washington-area during a measles outbreak . A high school senior who inoculated himself testified before a Senate committee this month that his mother, who opposes vaccinations and believes they are dangerous, was getting all of her information from one source: Facebook.
After it began pulling books pushing “toxic autism cures,” Amazon this month started removing unscientific documentaries about vaccines from its streaming service. But it wasn’t a revelation sparked internally or some internal safeguard; it was in reaction to a damning report by Wired.
Regardless, the companies have made some strides in terms of improving their content moderation policies and making these efforts more transparent, which may help stave off the momentum of calls to alter Section 230. Until just a few years ago, noted Kosseff, most of these companies treated their content-moderation efforts like “some kind of classified NSA program.”
Asked if Section 230 evaporated would companies like Facebook and Wikipedia continue to let users post their own content, Goldman exclaimed: “Why would you! If you’re liable for them, every decision that you make across 2.2 billion users, every single decision you make could be, ‘Well, you chose to publish that link and didn’t publish that one, now we get to sue you.”
“Why would you do that?” Goldman said. “That simply doesn’t work.”
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1. Trump from Michael_Novakhov (196 sites): “Do police officers shootings increase trump election chances?” – Google News: John Hickenlooper Is Running for President As Himself. Uh-oh. – Politico

DES MOINES—The man knows how to make an entrance. During his opening swing through Iowa after declaring his candidacy for president, at his very first campaign stop inside a bustling brew pub here south of downtown, John Hickenlooper arrives to find a crowd of more than 100 voters buzzing about the latest applicant to join the strangest job-interviewing process on Earth. Bending his lanky, 6-foot, 1-inch frame to fit through the crowded doorway of the events room, all eyes on the White House hopeful, the celestial nature of his moment shatters with the pint glass meeting the concrete floor just a few feet away.
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It spawns something of a Zapruder film debate: Some attendees say they saw Hickenlooper fumble the glass, others insist he bumped into the man who dropped it, while the candidate himself swears he had nothing to with the accident. Whatever the real explanation, it’s less compelling than what happens next. Hickenlooper instinctively kneels and begins picking up the shards with his bare hands, shooing away staffers trying to stop him, and assuring them that nobody in this bar has more experience picking up broken glass than he has.
“He’s down to earth, that’s for sure,” says Pat Rynard, a prominent local Democrat who runs the blog . Sampling a flight of beers after Hickenlooper’s event, chuckling at the candidate’s idiosyncrasies, Rynard adds, “He’s going to be great at the retail politics.”
Anyone suspicious of Hickenlooper—anyone skeptical of a politician who acts as though he’s no better than the minimum-wage dishwasher called to clean this mess—soon finds their doubts allayed. Standing on a plastic crate in front of the room, his campaign’s “Stand Tall” signs plastered on the walls, the slouching 67-year-old starts telling stories. How his mother was widowed twice before age 40. How he had acne, coke-bottle glasses and no friends. How he moved west to work as a geologist, got laid off, then sunk every last penny into starting a brewpub in the abandoned lower-downtown section of Denver. How the community he longed for as an estranged kid—the community he found running the brewpub—prompted him to run for mayor. How his collaboration with Republicans in the suburbs created an infrastructure boom that attracted waves of businesses and young workers to the region. How he took the same approach as governor, sitting down the environmentalists and the energy lobby to broker the nation’s first agreement to regulate methane emissions. And how, watching now as a bunch of former class-president types jockey to lead a leftward-lurching Democratic Party, he can’t help but wonder if voters want something different.
Hickenlooper is certainly different.
Nothing about his appearance, from his rumpled shirts to the crooked row of bottom teeth to the untamed wisps of gray flopping over his forehead, seems especially presidential. He speaks in frenetic bursts, beginning one word before concluding its predecessor, his rhetorical pacing off-key like a garaged piano. Every question asked of him invites a story, often with no guarantee of a thematic circling back to the subject at hand. He says things like, “I’m not the smartest guy out there,” not exactly standard fare for an aspiring leader of the Free World. (Just for kicks, try imagining either Donald Trump or Barack Obama saying that.)
Former Colorado governor and 2020 presidential candidate John Hickenlooper (top right) stooped to pick up shards of broken glass (left) after someone dropped their beer at his campaign event at Confluence Brewery in Des Moines, Iowa this March. | Stephen Voss for Politico Magazine
The candidate’s friends call him “odd,” “quirky,” “eccentric.” For anyone who watched Hickenlooper’s recent CNN town hall—a prime-time event capable of jump-starting a longshot candidacy—these descriptors seem generous. When asked whether he would commit to picking a woman as his running mate, Hickenlooper said he would, then drew groans from the audience by adding, “How come we’re not asking, more often, the women, ‘Would you be willing to put a man on the ticket?’” (He clearly intended to highlight the historic gender imbalance in presidential politics, but the execution made him seem tone-deaf at best or pandering at worst.) Later in the program, Hickenlooper recalled the time he took his mother to see “Deep Throat” due to his ignorance of what the X-rating meant, setting social media ablaze once more and likely sending his campaign staffers scattering for the nearest cocktail hour.
Not that any of this should come as a surprise. The man who goes by “Hick” is an open book—literally. He told of the cinema adventure, and the unlikely moment of maternal bonding, in his 2016 memoir, The Opposite of Woe , and in that same book wrote extensively of his sexual undertakings, naming names and even describing in garish detail the efforts to lose his virginity. Anyone who knows Hickenlooper—anyone working for him, anyone endorsing him—cannot claim to be surprised by what unfolds over the remainder of the 2020 election cycle. To be exposed to him even momentarily is to encounter a mass of unfiltered dynamism, the opposite of stage-crafted and poll-tested, a living, breathing rebellion against the norms that once narrated our understanding of presidential politics.
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Sometimes Hick’s radical transparency can be painful to witness—and other times, it can be an absolute pleasure. Like when he volunteers the story, after being asked about combating climate change, of how he once took a swig of some fracking fluid to test the energy lobby’s contention that the liquid was not dangerous. Or when he doubles down on his assertion that his first move as president would be to sit down with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, dismissing criticisms of his naiveté and arguing that the only way to heal America is by engaging those who seem least likely to reciprocate. Or when, sipping a stout in Des Moines while greeting voters following his event, he responds to a practical question about how to bring people together by hoisting his beer and shrugging his head sideways, as if to say, “A few of these couldn’t hurt.”
Hickenlooper was just 8 years old when John Hickenlooper Sr. died, leaving him with few pearls of fatherly wisdom. Some years later, he met Kurt Vonnegut, the celebrated writer, whom he learned had been a friend of his father’s. Vonnegut offered the younger Hickenlooper some advice that came to guide his life: “Be very careful who you pretend to be, because that’s who you’re going to be.”
Hickenlooper spent decades searching to find himself, emerging from a “broken” childhood into an adrift adolescence into an insecure young adulthood. He finally discovered the formula for happiness and isn’t going to change anything now. Hickenlooper has no need to pretend. He likes who he is. The question is whether voters will.
Hickenlooper speaks to a small crowd at his first campaign stop in Iowa, Des Moines’ Confluence Brewery, where he hopes to persuade early-state voters to back his moderate candidacy among a largely progressive primary field. | Stephen Voss for Politico Magazine
There is plenty to like: a trained scientist who quotes classic literature; a self-made multimillionaire whose business successes were interwoven with urban revitalization; a big-city mayor who was recognized as one of America’s best , fixing budget shortfalls and expanding public transportation by persuading Republicans to support a sales-tax hike; a two-term, purple-state governor who has real results to show for his efforts in expanding health care coverage, reducing gun violence, spurring economic growth and tackling climate change.
But presidential elections are beauty pageants, and Hickenlooper is hardly a knockout. Every speech he gives ends with the story of a rhetoric professor who taught her students the importance of contrasting opposites for emotional impact. “If you talk about the worst of times, talk about the best of times; if you talk about the agony, talk about the ecstasy,” he says. The punchline: When the professor asks her class, “What’s the opposite of woe?” one of her students yells, “Giddyup!” It’s good for a folksy giggle—at least, it is in Des Moines—with Hickenlooper using the story to illustrate how moments of sorrow are best met by getting back on the horse and charging forward. But it hardly carries the emotional weight of Obama’s hair-raising tale of the American Dream, the visceral resonance of Trump’s chant to build a border wall, or, in the case of 2020, the populist punch of Bernie Sanders’ crusade against economic inequality.
Whether he becomes a serious threat to win the nomination depends on whether he’s taken seriously—by rival campaigns, by voters, and above all, by the media. Surmounting a funny last name and made-for-gaffe personality is a tall task; it’s altogether towering as a moderate white man in a diverse, sprawling, progressive primary field.
Hickenlooper has his work cut out for him: In the latest Des Moines Register poll , not a single likely caucus-goer named him as their first choice, an insult that even the likes of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock managed to avoid. These numbers are hardly relevant 10 months ahead of caucusing; and, if anything, a longshot candidate like Hickenlooper needs to rise slowly, gaining altitude below the radar and peaking at precisely the right time to stand a chance. But if that doesn’t happen—if his candidacy goes nowhere—it might just owe to the simplest explanation, already on the lips of the political class, that he is too odd , too quirky , too eccentric to be president.
Authenticity is a rare commodity in politics, and Hickenlooper has it by the barrel-full. The problem is that authenticity can be more of a burden than a blessing: For all the warnings against being prosaic, there’s a reason candidates give stump speeches and use talking points. The media—and the voters—expect politicians to act and talk and think in a certain way, at least when the lights are on. It’s much easier to assess a conventional, stick-to-the-script candidate than it is Hickenlooper, someone who speaks before he thinks, who overshares, who is unwilling to contort himself to fill a vacuum or meet a moment.
Ironically, the average voter is more like Hickenlooper than they are a cookie-cutter politician: accessible, openly flawed, imperfect with words, honest to a fault. Yet even in the age of Donald Trump, these characteristics are more often considered weaknesses than they are strengths; every candidate is still one YouTube clip from disaster. We know how to evaluate an Elizabeth Warren or even a Beto O’Rourke; we don’t know quite how to deal with a John Hickenlooper.
He probably won’t be the president of the United States. Maybe it’s because he’s too weird. Then again, maybe it’s because he’s too normal. Maybe it’s because he’s too much like us—flawed, offbeat, human.
On the journey to self-discovery , Hickenlooper hit a fork in the road at a place of maximum vulnerability: the unemployment line.
Raised in the middle-class suburbs of Philadelphia, the son of a steel mill executive and a sub-5-foot homemaker nicknamed “Shrimpie,” Hickenlooper became well acquainted with misery. His mother’s first husband, a heroic World War II pilot, died in an automobile accident, leaving her with two young children. She re-married to John Hickenlooper Sr. and had two more children, but he soon fell ill. What the doctors diagnosed as hemorrhoids was actually intestinal cancer, and the family watched him suffer a slow, excruciating death. What struck John Jr. as a child was how his mother would roll his father over in the middle of the night, every night, changing the sweat-soaked sheets; what strikes him as an adult, with the tears welling in his eyes, is how a wealthy neighbor who’d seen his mother lugging the daily loads of laundry to the cleaners surprised her by paying for a linen service to help the family.
1988 – John Hickenlooper, a former geologist by trade, with a couple business partners, opens Wynkoop, a brewpub and billiards hall, in the then-bleak lower downtown, or “LoDo,” region of Denver, which helped to kickstart the revitalization of the area.
1999 – 2000 – In his first foray into politics, Hickenlooper leads the community-based effort against a corporate sponsorship of Denver’s Mile High Stadium, arguing that retention of the iconic name was important to the city.
June 6, 2003 – Hickenlooper wins his first election, defeating more-favored local government insiders, to become mayor of Denver. In 2005, he would be named by TIME as one of the top five big-city mayors in the country, and, in 2007, he would be reelected with 88 percent of the vote.
Nov. 2, 2010 – A “dark horse” candidate, Hickenlooper becomes the first Denver mayor elected Colorado governor in over a century, winning by nearly 15 percentage points. He would be reelected in 2014, but by a much smaller margin.
Mar. 4, 2019 – Hickenlooper announces his campaign to seek the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, saying, “we need dreamers in Washington but we also need to get things done. I’ve proven again and again I can bring people together to produce the progressive change Washington has failed to deliver.”
It was this sense of “community”—a word he uses constantly—that he otherwise lacked. Children did not play at the Hickenlooper house. He was skinny, socially awkward and dyslexic. He also had a severe case of prosopagnosia, or face blindness, a rare condition that impedes one’s ability tor recognize familiar faces. All of this made it nearly impossible to fit in. The resulting rebellious acts—fistfights, shoplifting—only fed his discontent, while fueling a terrible temper that consumed much of his childhood. “I was angry all the time,” he says. “Here’s my mother, she’s raising four kids by herself, and she would do the most innocent things, and I would go into a rage. … It started really when I was 7, 8, 9, and really went through until I was in high school.”
Although Hickenlooper finally did make some friends, he needed to escape the boundaries of his family and his hometown. He wound up in Connecticut for what he calls “that decade I spent in college” at Wesleyan University, first earning a bachelor’s degree in English and then, in a flash of the professional curiosity that would come to define him, a master’s degree in geology. Moving to Colorado to work for Buckhorn Petroleum as a geologist, Hickenlooper felt it was a perfect fit. He could explore, imagine, “lift over every new rock with suspense and exhilaration at what might lie underneath.” Instead, he found himself mostly behind a desk, doing lonely work, disconnected once more.
“When you’re a boy whose dad dies, you have to raise yourself to some extent. You feel abandoned by the world, and you’re looking for a sense of community,” Hickenlooper says. “Those are the two things I took from my childhood: a yearning for community, and an empathy for people who are hurting and marginalized.”
As if cued by a cosmic bolt of lightning, he suddenly lost his job. Buckhorn Petroleum was bought out and its employees were laid off. Hickenlooper might have felt relief if he weren’t so panicked. Abruptly unemployed in mid-30s, with no family of his own, he began to question his purpose in life. “When you’re out of work for a while, you really start to see a different person when you look in the mirror,” he says. “All change involves loss, and all loss needs to be mourned. But change is often a very good thing.”
Hickenlooper liked geology and initially hoped to keep working in the field. But he came to see the firing as a blessing. No longer would he settle for solitude. Thinking about other things he liked—drinking beer, being around people, drinking beer while being around people—Hickenlooper hatched a crazy plot: He would start a brewpub, part brewery and part bar, with a full-service restaurant to boot.
It was pure fantasy. At the time, he says, the craft beer craze hadn’t yet begun—fewer than a dozen brewpubs were operating in the U.S. and none of them in the Rocky Mountain region. But Hickenlooper had a hunch that he was onto something big. Borrowing a local library book on entrepreneurship and working feverishly with a friend to raise money $10,000 at a time, he built a business plan.
It didn’t exactly inspire potential investors. For a time, Hickenlooper’s dream appeared unreachable. Salvation came in the form of a loan from the city of Denver and cheap real estate: The area known as lower downtown, or “LoDo,” had turned into an urban wasteland, blocks of abandoned buildings haunting the landscape. One of them, a five-story mercantile warehouse with a basement that once housed supplies of molasses and fabric, was offering rent that was practically free. Hickenlooper was enchanted by the building and urged his business partners to pull together every last one of their resources and finally take the leap. In 1988, renting the building for $1 per square foot, they opened the Wynkoop Brewing Co.
“I thought I was a good geologist,” Hickenlooper recalls. “But my first day in the restaurant, dealing with the customers and the cooks, I felt at home.”
We’re standing in the basement of the Wynkoop, just outside the room where a hulking, metal contraption processes grain, and Hickenlooper is acting out a story about the time when he stuck his face in a toilet caked with hardened feces.
These were the early days of entrepreneurial hardship, pinching pennies and gutting out whatever tasks came his way. In this case, when a friend offered “beautiful, old, art deco toilets” for $10 apiece, Hickenlooper pounced, not realizing they were in a building with no running water and therefore choked with years-old excrement. He was undeterred: On moving day, Hick got down to lift them by the base, one by one, proving his maniacal commitment to himself if no one else.
On Day 2 in Iowa, Mar. 9, Hickenlooper mingles with potential supporters at an event at Octopus, a bar in Cedar Falls. | Stephen Voss for Politico Magazine
The toilets were the easy part. Hickenlooper and his partners poured everything they had into the project, and did most of the work themselves. They bought wheat and grain to store in the basement, where they also kept much of the equipment. They built two bars on the first floor and set up tables for the restaurant. They heaved more than 20 pool tables up to the second floor and named it Wynkoop Billiards, the biggest pool hall in the city. Now all they needed was customers.
“The Wynkoop was done on a shoestring, with family and friends as investors, and it was risky. The level of expertise you need to run a brewpub, it’s not running a fast-food concession,” says Patty Calhoun, the founding editor of Westword , the city’s acerbic alt-weekly, who worked in the neighborhood and became one of Hickenlooper’s regulars.
At the grand opening, a panicked Hickenlooper poured beers in solo cups for 25 cents each because the dishwashers couldn’t keep pace. Calhoun chuckled at the newcomer’s awkwardness. Yet as she and her colleagues got to know him over many late nights at the bar, they concluded he was just about the most colorful—and curious—character they’d ever met.
“He loved to gab late into the night, he loved talking to people, he loved learning about people. Whenever he heard about somebody’s job, he would say, ‘Wow! Maybe I should do that!’” she recalls. Hickenlooper so loved the late-night, booze-fueled arguments among his regulars—over music, sports, politics—that in those pre-Google days, he proposed hanging a dictionary by a string from the ceiling, dangling over the bar, so that they could resolve the conflicts.
The good times and strange circumstances were too many to number: How he offered a $5,000 “bounty” for anyone who could find him a wife and wound up discussing the contest on The Phil Donahue Show ; how after celebrating one Wynkoop anniversary with a pig roast he proposed a “running of the pigs” in the alley behind the restaurant, only to end the practice in the face of protests from PETA. Sometimes he had too much fun: The year after the bar opened, Hickenlooper was arrested for drunk driving, after which he introduced a designated-driver program at the Wynkoop.
Traveling the premises with Hickenlooper today, hearing the bartenders talk of “the brewery that brewed a neighborhood,” it’s tempting to think of him as a visionary. The Wynkoop is visually stunning and commercially vibrant, spilling over with customers on a Tuesday afternoon. The surrounding area is every bit as impressive, a snapshot of 21st-century urban dynamism. But Hickenlooper is quite modest about his achievement, because in reality, the success of the Wynkoop—and of its ecosystem—was the result of good sense and great fortune.
Hickenlooper struggled mightily in the first year to turn a profit. Friends worried that the bar would go under. Eventually, he took the dramatic step of approaching the handful of restaurant and bar owners in the neighborhood and suggesting they join forces with a common purpose. It was an uneasy conversation to have; Hickenlooper argued that unless more people started coming to LoDo, they would all go out of business before long. Persuading his competitors to pool their resources to buy newspaper ads and bar supplies in bulk, the establishments soon began to thrive, with good publicity begetting steadier business, a cycle that perpetuated until LoDo, in a few years’ time, became the talk of Denver. In 1991, Hickenlooper and his partners purchased the building outright for $11 per square foot—a steal—and set about enhancing the restaurant’s operations and building condominiums on the top three floors. It was a triumphant—and dicey—expansion.
Enter the great fortune. Around that very time, Major League Baseball was awarding a franchise to Colorado with a promise from Denver to construct a glitzy stadium, and city officials were debating its exact location. The sudden revitalization of LoDo, on top of its still-inexpensive real estate, made it a natural candidate. But Hickenlooper—to the astonishment of his peers—was adamantly opposed. They were working organically to build up the neighborhood, Hickenlooper argued, and didn’t want a corporate takeover of the area, not to mention the drunks and general unruliness that can accompany professional sports venues.
“Luckily,” he laughs, “nobody listened to me.”
“From the Wynkoop to the White House” reads a chalk board, top left, at Hickenlooper’s campaign stop at the Octopus bar, alluding to the candidate’s Denver brewpub that he started many years ago which had set into motion the chain of events that led him to politics. Top right, Hickenlooper speaks with Democratic organizer Timothy Klinghammer at the same event, and, bottom, Hickenlooper campaigns at Quarter Barrel Brewery and Arcade in Cedar Rapids that same day. | Stephen Voss for Politico Magazine
In 1995, Coors Field opened just down the street from the Wynkoop. It was a winning lottery ticket: Sales shot up more than 50 percent when baseball season began, and the demand for his new condos went through the roof. The LoDo neighborhood was no longer a punchy underdog; it was the trendiest part of one of America’s fastest-growing cities. And it was making Hickenlooper rich. Before long, he made plans to expand into other cities. He would use the same model, buying cheap, dilapidated buildings in ignored sections of second-tier cities, hopeful that a successful business venture could help spark urban renewal—and profits. There were failures along the way, but also plenty of successes. In total, Hickenlooper opened 14 brewpubs nationwide.
Still, the Wynkoop is his baby. He no longer owns the business—having placed his stake in a blind trust while serving as mayor, he was crestfallen to learn it had been sold off—yet he’s still treated like royalty in the building. He breezes in and out of different rooms, calling out to employees, pointing out where things used to be and showing me the finer points of the brewing process. When he was governor, one of the bartenders tells me, Hickenlooper would arrive unannounced, sample the new selections, then disappear into the basement and drag a keg of beer up the steps himself, muscling it into a waiting SUV, with the understanding that it would be placed on his running tab with the owners. (He kept a kegerator in the governor’s mansion.)
Watching him roam the restaurant, listening to his yarns, it’s easy to envision him behind the bar, holding court with customers late into the night, telling old tales and picking up new ones, comfortable in his skin and at peace in the community he created. It was “a killer life,” he says, one that he could not imagine changing.
And then, he got suckered into politics.
He wants to tell me about it. But first, he needs to show off the kitchen. Barging through the double doors, winding our way back to a prep area next to some walk-in refrigerators, he explains how everything here is made from scratch. Glancing around at the cast of Hispanic women chopping vegetables—some of whom clearly do not recognize him and are startled by our sudden presence—Hickenlooper waves his arm, announcing grandly, “These are the geniuses!” With their stares unabated, Hickenlooper tries their tongue: “Geniosos! Geniosos!”
They smile politely, and he reverts to English, pointing to his head. “Geniuses!”
They smile some more, and we head back for the double doors. “So much for my Spanish,” he mutters to no one in particular.
The guest of honor is running late.
It’s an icy Saturday afternoon in Dubuque, Iowa, the second day of Hickenlooper’s swing through the state, and a crowd of some 50 local Democrats has crammed inside the home of Jack Wertzberger. A prominent local activist, Wertzberger is known to open his home to any visiting Democratic candidate so that voters can meet and question them in an intimate setting. The snow is beginning to drift outside and more than a few people are wondering where this particular presidential hopeful is.
Suddenly, before anyone knows it—before anyone notices him enter the house, or snake through the clogged foyer—Hickenlooper is seated at the piano in the living room, banging out show tunes and tossing his head from side to side like a poor man’s Elton John. Surprised, then delighted, some in the room start clapping along. “I never get a chance to play the piano,” he tells me. “You know, nobody thinks a politician can do anything except be a politician. Most of them have wanted to be a politician their whole life and they don’t have any hobbies.”
These twin instincts—a love of spontaneity, a loathing of “politicians,” a title he hisses despite having held elected office for 16 years—explain how he ended up playing piano in Dubuque.
Getty Images (1-3), AP Photos (4-8)
Being mayor was never an ambition. Really, he insists, it was never even a consideration . But Denver at the turn of the century was a city overdue for transition, a new-money metropolis whose potential was being drowned in red ink and depleted by job losses to tech-heavy competitors out west. Hickenlooper’s first taste of politics had come in 1999, when he led the opposition to a corporate sponsorship of the Denver Broncos’ new football stadium, arguing that the iconic “Mile High” moniker from the old stadium should be preserved. (A compromise was reached, pairing “Mile High” with a corporate sponsorship.) Three years later, when the incumbent announced he would not seek a fourth term in City Hall, Hickenlooper thought nothing of it.
Prodded by friends to consider running, he laughed, then winced, then demurred. But soon the idea began growing on him. In the decade-plus since he’d opened the Wynkoop, Hickenlooper had become a fixture on the civic scene—joining local boards, catering charity events, sponsoring various functions. This made Hickenlooper a player, an influencer, in a city without any imposing blue-blood establishment. It also exposed Hickenlooper to the inner-workings of a political class he found unresponsive to the needs of the city.
“I’m not the typical little guy who makes it big,” he told the New York Times in 2003. “In the process of building a business, I’ve been involved with the community and I’ve never shied away from speaking up when politicians didn’t do so.”
Distressed at the prospect of leaving his “killer life” behind, Hickenlooper took 12 weeks of vacation to make his decision. He traveled the world with friends, eating and drinking in exotic locales and pondering a life in politics. Few of them thought he would change careers. He doubted it, too. And then, without much of a warning, he jumped in with his typical spontaneity—no staff, no plan and no expectations. “I was the last person to get into that race,” he recalls. “Everyone told me I was six months too late.”
It was a few weeks before his 50th birthday, and Hickenlooper was running the first campaign of his life.
Alan Salazar, a veteran Democratic strategist and then-chief of staff to Rep. Mark Udall, doubled over in laughter at the news. Salazar, who was backing the favorite in the race—a young, Hispanic, “Hollywood handsome” city auditor who “looked the part and knew city issues backward and forwards”—had met Hickenlooper just once. It was at the Wynkoop, a few years earlier, when a mutual friend introduced them. “He reached out in an ungainly way to shake my hand, and I noticed the elbow of this green suit he was wearing was fraying. He had glasses on, he had this goofy, cowlick haircut, and just looked kind of geeky and nerdy,” Salazar recalls. “So when I heard he was running for mayor, I just laughed and laughed: ‘ Never gonna happen .’”
But Hickenlooper was relentless. For a first-time candidate, he demonstrated not just an uncanny ability to connect with people, but an intuitive understanding of their anxieties. (As proven by John Boehner and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, tending bar makes ideal training for future politicians.) Sensing the disquiet about Denver’s economic downturn, with office buildings around the city emptying out in a manner reminiscent of how LoDo looked two decades earlier, Hickenlooper built his candidacy around the promise of attracting business to the city. He ruled out tax hikes, opposed a ban on smoking in public places and even vowed to lower the cost of parking meters, an issue that seemed trivial until Hickenlooper won widespread acclaim for a television ad in which he strolled around downtown filling the meters with coins.
He won both the primary and general elections in comfortable fashion, marking a major disruption of Colorado’s party-driven political scene. The new mayor governed as uniquely as he had campaigned, making peace with suburbs that had long been at war with the city and forging alliances with Republicans in the pursuit of major economic development initiatives. Less than two years into his tenure, TIME called him one of America’s five best big-city mayors, noting how he “inherited a $70 million budget deficit, the worst in city history” and “eliminated the shortfall without major service cuts or layoffs, convincing city employees that they should accept less pay and instituting mandatory leave days.” More impressive, Hickenlooper secured bipartisan support for a series of tax hikes to fund various quality-of-life initiatives, the crown jewel of which was a nearly-$5 billion mass-transit project.
At the home, top, of prominent local Democratic activist Jack Wertzberger in Dubuque, Iowa, Hickenlooper surprises the crowd by finding the piano before anyone notices him enter and playing showtunes, bottom. | Stephen Voss for Politico Magazine
It was all rather confounding to the political professionals, watching as the nomadic newcomer ran circles around the city’s power brokers and rang up approval ratings in the 80s. “As far as real-life political fairy tales go, it was just about impossible to trump Mayor Hickenlooper,” read a 2012 article in Denver’s 5280 magazine. “He was a new kind of natural, one of those unicorn-rare, truly apolitical politicians that career politicos so often and so fraudulently claim to be.”
After winning his reelection bid with nearly 90 percent of the vote, the clamoring quickly began for Hickenlooper to run for governor in 2010. This time, he was less resistant to the entreaties. Hickenlooper’s taste for his adventure—“his endless curiosity, where he’s always trying things on for size, always continuing to grow,” as Calhoun says—was only growing in his mid-50s. He had become a father, took up the banjo and welcomed the challenge of running for higher office.
His first hire was Salazar, whom Hickenlooper named campaign chairman and chief strategist. With the intensifying recession and tea party wave crushing Democrats nationwide, Salazar was convinced that Hickenlooper was the party’s only hope to hold the governorship. He did, winning convincingly in a year that saw Republicans flip 12 governor’s mansions nationwide. Hickenlooper got some help from the GOP, whose badly flawed nominee was further weakened by former GOP congressman Tom Tancredo’s candidacy for the Constitution Party. (“One of John’s former girlfriends used to say that he stepped in lucky shit,” Calhoun laughs. “The timing has always been great to him.”) Even so, Hickenlooper won the race easily.
The job itself proved to be far tougher. In Hickenlooper’s first term, Colorado suffered a wave of unremitting wildfires, including three of the four most destructive in the state’s history, destroying more than a thousand homes, causing millions of dollars in property damage and claiming the lives of numerous citizens. Then, in 2012, a dozen people were killed and 70 injured when a shooter opened fire at an Aurora movie theatre. Finally, according to the Denver Post : “When the governor learned he would have to undergo a hip replacement, … he chose a week in September with no record of catastrophe.” Just after his surgery, “a 100-year flood hit northern Colorado. Nine people died, and the floods destroyed 1,852 homes and caused $4 billion in damage. On crutches, Hickenlooper visited all 22 counties that had been submerged.”
The Post added, “Between fallen soldiers, natural disasters and gun violence, Hickenlooper would attend more than 50 funerals during his first term.”
“We had this string of tragedies, and he had to identify how to be a leader in communities that were new to him,” says Tami Door, CEO of the Denver Downtown Partnership. “I think it was all about his empathy—he really relates to people as a human being, and they relate to him. But he was also able to make things happen. He delivered. These were policy issues as much as deeply human issues, and there was nowhere to hide from them.”
The well-documented détente Hickenlooper brokered between big energy and the environmental lobby resulted in an unprecedented methane-regulation policy that served as a blueprint for California and other states. His signing of some of the strictest gun control laws, including universal background checks for all gun purchases and a ban on high-capacity magazines, made him an enemy of the National Rifle Association. Meanwhile, with the Affordable Care Act under constant attack from Republicans in Congress, Hickenlooper strengthened his state-based exchange, leading to a nearly 95 percent coverage rate in Colorado. He also backed civil unions for same-sex couples well before marriage was a mainstream position in the Democratic Party.
One might think that Hickenlooper winning a second term in 2014, another terrible year for Democrats, would have vaulted him to the top of every vice-presidential short list in 2016. But the Colorado governor, despite his many successes, was never a progressive darling—a fact that does not escape him as he now seeks the presidency.
Hickenlooper’s cozy relationship with the Chamber of Commerce crowd, and his mass slashing of state regulations, is sure to come under scrutiny from the left. So too will his initial objections to the legalization of recreational marijuana, a stance that Hickenlooper eventually softened on, acknowledging the rapid swing in public opinion and the encouraging early returns from Colorado’s pot experiment. Ironically, for a scientist-politician most proud of his deal to protect the environment, his pragmatism makes him most vulnerable on that very issue: Given the urgency surrounding climate change for the Democratic base, his support for fracking—and his opposition to ballot measures that would have banned the construction of oil wells in certain locations—will almost certainly be used against him.
Hickenlooper is a cool customer, a people-pleaser skilled at masking his annoyance and avoiding insults. (He once showered fully clothed in a campaign as to demonstrate his distaste for negative campaigning.) But the questions about his environmental bona fides clearly irk him. At the brewery in Des Moines, when an environmentalist challenged him as to why climate change wasn’t his top priority—“like Jay Inslee,” a rival candidate—it was all Hickenlooper could do to keep from rolling his eyes. “Because bringing people together is my top priority,” he said, insisting that only through bipartisan consensus can meaningful progress be made. At the Dubuque house party, after fielding another inquiry about climate change, Hickenlooper gives a blunt response that, translated, amounts to: I’ve actually effected realistic change, while these other people fantasize about ideas that are never going to become law .
Or, as he tells me inside his Infiniti SUV a few minutes later, as his driver navigates eastward, “We’ve been able to deliver real progressive results in some very difficult circumstances—not just talk. I’m not just a dreamer, but a doer.”
It’s been a few weeks since we toured the Wynkoop in Denver, and as we talk in the middle row of his campaign’s rented car, I can’t help but ask about the face blindness—a seemingly debilitating condition for an aspiring president.
It was only five or six years ago, Hickenlooper says, that he came to realize his condition. “I bought into the thing that, as my mother said, my siblings said, my girlfriends, they just said, ‘You don’t pay attention,’” he laughs. Only when he read an article by the late neurologist Oliver Sacks, who also suffered from the cognitive disorder, did Hickenlooper make sense of his own struggle.
So, I ask, did you recognize me today?
“No,” he says, shaking his head. Then he adds, “I did, because I knew you would be here. So I didn’t recognize you, but then as we were walking out, then I figured out who you were.”
Hickenlooper says if he sees a person often enough, “four or five times per month, I begin to kind of get it.” Still, it’s difficult to overstate just how crippling this condition might be for someone who is about to spend the next 10 months—if not longer—working party activists and rope lines. In Iowa alone, there are 99 counties, which means 99 chairmen, 99 vice chairmen and a thousand other local Democratic officials and activists who want to be flattered, who want to be lavished with attention, who want to be remembered , before they commit to caucusing for someone. Bill Clinton used to keep note cards with personal information about a person’s family and interests to dazzle them with a personal touch on the chance they met a second time; Hickenlooper can’t remember meeting someone unless he sees them once a week.
He laughs off my concerns, describing how running a restaurant with his impairment makes running for public office seem like a breeze. He also explains his system: His top staffer in each state will have to brief him in detail before every meeting, every phone call, every house party, about who he’ll be talking with and whether he’s talked with them before.
At the offices of small businessman Jim Davis in Charles City, Iowa, Davis, bottom, introduces the Colorado businessman who, while running for the Democratic nomination for president, calls himself a “fiscal conservative.” | Stephen Voss for Politico Magazine
It’s a daunting challenge, but then again, Hickenlooper has lots of those to worry about. Chief among them is selling his brand—that of an “extreme moderate,” as he boasts of being called—to a party base that wants sweeping progressive change. For Hickenlooper, while careful not to sound as though he’s on the attack, this boils down to a simple distinction. Whereas most of his rivals are lawyers by trade, he is a scientist, the first geologist ever elected governor in the U.S. (And, he adds for good measure, the first brewmaster elected governor since Samuel Adams.) His point is that while lawyer-politicians are trained to argue, scientists are taught to deliberate .
“I’m sure you’ve seen many of the same stories I did. ‘What chance does he have?’ And, ‘He doesn’t take a strong enough position on this or that,’” Hickenlooper says, rolling his eyes. “Which is sort of how science works, right? You don’t jump to snap judgments. You try to make sure you get all the facts, and think it through, then make better decisions.”
The fact is, whether it’s the way Hickenlooper reaches certain decisions or the decisions themselves, his centrist instincts place him out of today’s Democratic mainstream.
On health care, he is not simply defiantly opposed to Medicare for All—a single-payer health care system that would eliminate private insurance—but seems somewhat bemused by it. Hickenlooper says that with research showing more than 100 million Americans satisfied with their current, employer-provided insurance plans, it would “make no sense” to force them into a new program that costs trillions of dollars to implement.
On immigration, he blames bad actors in both parties for scuttling compromises. He also says he wouldn’t allow the question of citizenship for the undocumented population—even those brought here as minors—to thwart a potential comprehensive solution. Hickenlooper adds that he’s struck by how many young people—and the young DREAMer at this last event was one of them—come up and say, “Give me 10 years, a visa, and then maybe another 10 years on the visa, and I will figure out the citizenship thing. We don’t want that to be a holdup.”
When it comes to matters of spending and deficits, Hickenlooper calls himself “a fiscal conservative.” He rejects the trendy notion among some liberals that the national debt is a meaningless statistic, and even harkens back to borrow from the old Bill Clinton playbook. “I don’t think the government needs to be bigger. I think the government’s got to work, and people have got to believe in government, and I think that’s part of the problem,” he says. “I think what a lot of Americans want is better government, not bigger government.”
Even when Hickenlooper gets worked up, warning me that he’s about to “get raw” with his criticisms of Trump, he finds a way to dial back. “What word is most synonymous for ‘fascist’? It’s ‘bully,’” he says. “And dividing people has been a tool that bullies have used, but also dictators have used, for years.”
It’s a bit jarring, the sharpest remark I’ve heard him make. Is he saying that the president of the United States has fascist tendencies? “No, I’m not going to say that,” Hickenlooper says quickly. “But I’m going to say he has made an art of dividing the American people.”
This restraint could be thought as Hickenlooper’s greatest appeal—and also as his most conspicuous weakness. His stump speech is heavy on positive vibes but light on the specifics that add up to an overarching vision. “Bringing people together” might resonate with a certain chunk of the Democratic electorate, especially since he has a record that backs up his rhetoric. Yet a large and seemingly growing segment of the population believes America can’t be brought back together, that its partisan wounds are too deep to heal. For these voters, paeans to unity are unwelcome bordering on offensive.
Deep down, Hickenlooper seems to know this. He grimaces when I ask a question he surely saw coming: Would he consider choosing John Kasich, the former Republican governor of Ohio with whom he was once rumored to be considering a “unity ticket,” as his running mate?
“I think beating Donald Trump is absolutely essential. And I think at this moment and in this time, it would be very hard to beat Donald Trump if you had a Republican on the ticket,” he says, a pained expression exaggerating the creases in his brow. “There are so many Democrats so angry at the Republicans that they would feel betrayed.”
Cruising southeast toward Clinton, Iowa, parallel to the icy waters of the Mississippi River, Hickenlooper adds, almost apologetically, “You know, someday this country will get to that point. But at this moment in time I just don’t see it.”
Hickenlooper is about to commence his fourth campaign event of the day, this one inside a coffee shop in Clinton, and he’s got one more stop in Cedar Rapids that evening before hopping on a plane and flying to Austin, Texas, for the annual South by Southwest festival. It’s a long, grueling start to what he can only hope will be a long, grueling campaign. Hickenlooper says he scored “off the scale” for extroversion on the Myers-Briggs personality test—literally, his score did not register—and can think of nothing better than spending 16-hour days meeting new people. “I’m frustrated I have to wait a whole hour before I can talk to somebody else,” he tells me, between stops.
By the time he gets to his second to last campaign stop in his two-day swing through Iowa on Mar. 8 and 9, Hickenlooper is fading, and he admits he’ll have to make some lifestyle adjustments to get used to the pace of a presidential campaign. | Stephen Voss for Politico Magazine
That said, Hickenlooper knows lifestyle adjustments will need to be made. He will need more sleep. He will ask his campaign for eight hours to himself, from the time they reach the hotel at night until the time they depart in the morning. Most significant, he will cut back considerably on his beer intake—the biggest sacrifice of all. “I’m not going to be able to have a drink with dinner every night, because oftentimes I’ve got to go do a TV interview, I’ve got to go to a house,” he says. “It’s hard. I’ve got to be as sharp as I can be.”
Indeed, although it’s only day three of his campaign, and despite his love of life on the trail, Hickenlooper is fading at the stop in Clinton. His answers to several questions are particularly circuitous. His stump speech is rushed and robotic. His “Giddyup” line falls totally flat. This should be Hickenlooper’s kind of crowd, working-class Democrats in a region that was long ruled by Blue Dogs. But it’s not his best performance, and based on the vibe in the java house, he’s not winning many converts.
“He’s not at the top of my list,” says Jean Pardee, who served nearly two decades as the chairwoman of the Clinton County Democratic Party and has been a member of the state central committee for almost 50 years. “I think he comes across as appealing, but you can’t get too wonky with an audience.” Pardee says Hickenlooper’s first answer, to a question about getting tough on China, was meandering and “a little thin.”
Then, unprompted, Pardee raises another concern: Hickenlooper’s recent appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe , during which he refused—despite several opportunities—to identify as a capitalist.
Hickenlooper tells me he doesn’t like “labels” of any kind, as if that rationalizes his reticence. Maybe it was just a bad moment. But the more plausible explanation is that even Hickenlooper is succumbing to the same pressures, consciously or subconsciously, that have forced most of the Democrats running for president further to the left than they’ve ever been before.
“He gets so excited, his brain goes so fast, it’s always been kind of a wild ride when you’re talking to him and he’s unplugged. Now he’s being more careful, and I understand why,” Calhoun says. “But it’s a shame. Because he is who he is, and he needs to embrace that.”

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