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How Virus Politics Divided a Conservative Town in Wisconsin’s North – The New York Times

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MINOCQUA, Wis. — When coronavirus cases began to spike in Wisconsin this fall, Rob Swearingen kept his restaurant open and let customers and employees decide whether they wanted to wear masks.

Mr. Swearingen, a Republican seeking his fifth term in the Wisconsin State Assembly, didn’t require other employees at his restaurant in Rhinelander to be tested after a waitress and a bartender contracted the virus because, he said, nobody from the local health department suggested it was necessary.

Kirk Bangstad, Mr. Swearingen’s Democratic opponent, took the opposite approach at the brewpub he owns in Minocqua, 30 miles away. He has served customers only outdoors, and when a teenage waiter became infected after attending a party, Mr. Bangstad shut down for a long weekend and required all employees to get tested.

Mr. Bangstad has since turned his entire campaign into a referendum on how Republicans have handled the coronavirus. On Facebook, he has served as a town shamer, posting lists of restaurants and stores in Wisconsin’s Northwoods that have disregarded state limits on seating capacity and don’t require masks.

With just days until the election, the contest for Mr. Swearingen’s Assembly seat in this lightly populated area in the Northwoods of Wisconsin serves as a microcosm for the way coronavirus politics are playing out across America. Mr. Bangstad is unlikely to prevail in a Republican-heavy district that covers parts of four counties stretching south from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but his effort to make the campaign a referendum on the virus echoes that of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has sought to make President Trump’s handling of the pandemic the central issue in the presidential contest.

Mr. Bangstad, a 43-year-old Harvard-educated former professional opera singer, moved back to Wisconsin six years ago from Manhattan, where he was a technology consultant and served as the policy director for Anthony Weiner’s 2013 mayoral campaign. Like Mr. Biden, he has eschewed traditional campaigning. He has moved his entire effort online, including in email and on the Facebook page of his brewpub, the Minocqua Brewing Company.

But unlike the former vice president, Mr. Bangstad has made little effort to win over voters who aren’t already appalled by Republicans’ handling of the coronavirus. Many of them, he said, are being duped by false or misleading statements by the president and the conservative news media.

“A lot of them, I feel, haven’t been equipped with the tools of media literacy or critical thinking skills to be able to discern if they’re being told something that doesn’t quite jell or is not true,” he said during an interview this week at his shuttered restaurant overlooking Lake Minocqua.

Rob Swearingen, a Republican State Assembly member, does not require staff or customers to wear masks at his restaurant in Rhinelander.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Wisconsin’s 2020 campaigns are concluding while the state is in the midst of one of the nation’s worst coronavirus outbreaks. On Tuesday, as the state set records for the most new cases and deaths, Gov. Tony Evers said Wisconsin faces an “urgent crisis” and urged citizens to stay home.

Oneida County, which includes Minocqua and Rhinelander, where Mr. Swearingen operates the Al-Gen Dinner Club and has lived his entire life, has a virus rate nearly twice the state average over the past two weeks.

Scott Haskins, whose wife, Pamela, is a waitress at the Al-Gen, is among the county’s recent fatalities. Ms. Haskins contracted the virus after working a restaurant shift in mid-September and was hospitalized in early October. Mr. Haskins, 63, checked into the hospital with the virus four days after his wife, according to his daughter, Kelly Schulz.

Two days later, Mr. Haskins suffered a stroke and died.

“The day after my dad passed, Governor Evers put in the 25 percent capacity limit, and they weren’t abiding by it,” Ms. Schulz said of the Al-Gen. “People were posting pictures of themselves there on Facebook and it was pretty busy for a Friday night.”

Republicans who control the state legislature this month successfully sued Mr. Evers to overturn the capacity limits on bars and restaurants he ordered. In Oneida County, local sheriffs and town police departments weren’t enforcing them anyway.

Before winning election to the Assembly, Mr. Swearingen, 57, was the president of the Tavern League of Wisconsin, the powerful lobbying group for the state’s bars. He fought the state’s efforts to ban smoking indoors at businesses, lift the drinking age to 21 from 18 and increase the legal blood alcohol limit to drive.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

He said his restaurant is not responsible for employees who caught the coronavirus. No one from the local health department ever called with questions, he said, and no contact tracers contacted the restaurant. Mr. Swearingen said he has not had a test himself.

“There’s been no connection to the restaurant to all these cases,” he said during an interview in the dining room of the Al-Gen, which is bedecked with taxidermied heads of deer and black bears. “These people are part-time, coming from different jobs and different things.”

Of all the places where Democrats barely bothered to compete in 2016, Wisconsin’s Northwoods may have been the most neglected. Not only did Hillary Clinton skip Wisconsin altogether, county Democrats in this region didn’t even have yard signs to distribute, not that there was much demand for them.

Mrs. Clinton was a “polarizing’’ candidate, said Matt Michalsen, a high school social studies teacher who ran against Mr. Swearingen in 2016. “Personally, did I support her? No.”

Four years later, Mr. Bangstad has few expectations that he will win. He sees his campaign largely as an effort to increase Democratic turnout for Mr. Biden and cut into Mr. Trump’s margins by focusing attention on the impact of the coronavirus on northern Wisconsin.

Mr. Bangstad wrapped the side of his restaurant in a giant Biden-Harris sign that attracted the ire of the Oneida County Board, which sent a letter informing him that it exceeded the allowable size of 32 square feet. After Mr. Bangstad used the fracas to raise money and get more attention for himself in the local press, the board backed down.

At the same time, the Biden campaign and local Democrats have put far more resources into northern Wisconsin than they did four years ago. There are twice as many organizers focused on the area than in 2016. And though the Clinton campaign swore off yard signs as an unnecessary annoyance, the state party has made efforts to get them in every yard that would take one.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

“We distributed approximately 50 Hillary yard signs four years ago, and we’re at more than 1,200 so far for Joe,” said Jane Nicholson, the party chairwoman in Vilas County, just north of Oneida County.

There’s some evidence that Mr. Biden is making up ground. A poll taken for Mr. Bangstad’s campaign this month found Mr. Trump leading Mr. Biden in the district by five percentage points — a far cry from his 25-point margin of victory in 2016. The same survey found Mr. Swearingen ahead by 12 points, less than half his 26-point margin over Mr. Michalsen four years ago.

Mr. Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by less than 23,000 votes statewide. His gap in Mr. Swearingen’s district alone was 14,000 votes.

“If we’re in the low 40s there, that means that we have blocked Trump’s path to pulling in the votes that he’d need to cancel out other areas of the state,” said Ben Wikler, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

The Assembly race has engendered hurt feelings and worsened political divisions in Minocqua, a town of about 4,000 full-time residents. Down the street from the Minocqua Brewing Company, Tracy Lin Grigus, a Trump supporter who owns the Shade Tree bookstore, shook her head at Mr. Bangstad’s attempts to shame local businesses.

“On his Facebook, he’s calling all of us up here idiots, like a mini Joe Biden,’’ said Ms. Grigus, who doesn’t wear a mask in her store and doesn’t ask her customers to do so. “It’s insulting to people that share the space with him and other business owners. He’s like the only one in this town and surrounding towns that went this far.”

Across Oneida Street, the main drag through Minocqua’s small downtown, Casie Oldenhoff, an assistant manager at the Monkey Business T-shirt shop, where signs instruct customers to wear a mask, said Mr. Trump was to blame for the current wave of the pandemic.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

“He’s just not taking care of us,” Ms. Oldenhoff said. “He doesn’t care about what’s going on with the pandemic.”

Mr. Swearingen said he had little doubt that Mr. Trump would do just as well in the Northwoods on Tuesday as he did in 2016. Enthusiasm for the president is higher, he said, as evidenced by the regular boat and car parades adorned with Trump flags and carrying young men concerned foremost about a Biden administration taking away their guns.

But he said he had never been involved in a campaign as ugly as his own this year.

“We’ve been targeted by my opponent as a den of Covid and all sorts of rumors in Facebook,’’ he said. “I’ve never quite had to fight against Facebook in an election. He went after a couple of other bars in the area, and one of the bar owners was livid that that bar was on the list. It’s like, ‘Well, who are these people? It’s the mask police or something.’”

For Mr. Bangstad, shaming Mr. Swearingen and other Republicans who have fought against public health guidelines is exactly the point.

“If you’re a citizen in this state, and there’s one branch of government that’s trying to keep people healthy from Covid, and you have the legislative branch and the judicial branch trying to stymie him every single time he does it, it’s the saddest thing you’ve ever seen,” he said. “As a Wisconsinite, I’m just completely ashamed.”

Andy Mills and Luke Vander Ploeg contributed reporting.

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Shelburne Councillor shares his journey into politics – Toronto Star

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Shelburne Deputy Mayor, Steve Anderson is a crusader for inclusivity of all people in his com-munity and fervently believes that one should be judged on their aims and accomplishments.He also serves as the County Councillor of Dufferin and is the first born Canadian in a fam-ily of six siblings, with Jamaican parents.Steve grew up in Jane Finch, in Toronto, attended the University of Windsor for his Hon-ours Baccalaureate in criminology, started Law School at the University of Detroit Mercy and finished his degree at the University of Ottawa. He was subsequently hired by the Toronto Transit Commission to work in their legal department as a litigator. Considering his present position as a vocal advocate for civil rights and the inclusion of all people and races in todays society, it begs the question why choose litigation law rather than civil rights of some similar field?Steve’s answer was simple. He did not start out imagining himself leading some great advocacy charge. Rather, he knew he wanted to make a dif-ference in the world and saw the law as a poten-tial pathway to achieving it. Steve said the TTC gave him the chance to build his own platform. Once he found himself working for such an iconic institution, people saw him as a possible resource.He was a lawyer when working for the TTC and someone who could go into schools to speak with youth. This resulted in many opened many doors for Steve. He was asked to speak to schools and many organizations about his experiences. This, in turn, reverberated with his bosses and their bosses and they supported it wholeheartedly. In part, because of its benefit to the youth of the community and in part, because it reflected positively on them. Steve and a friend of his, Ian, worked together in Steve’s old neighbourhood of Jane Finch, to help youth there. They assisted in achievement awards for academics, community service and other accomplishments. They have done this for over ten years and still continue today, but with COVID-19 precautions.From Steve’s work in Toronto he learned a lot about the potential to impact change through politics and a seed was planted. The seed sprouted when he had just moved to Shelburne with his family and the munici-pal elections were underway. He thought about entering the race, but realized that he knew noth-ing about the issues of his new community, so he waited. But while he waited, he began to follow the local political scene and learned about issues affecting ShelburneHe did not yet know the community, but he knew the issues. It was then that the Town asked for members to become a part of the Transit Task Force. It was a perfect fit for a TTC veteran. The task force was composed of CAO John Telfer, Ron Monroe and Steve. The plan was to run a transit system in town for two years and then have Go Transit take it over. Unfortunately, the plan never came to fruition, but it made Go Transit aware of the town and its desire for tran-sit.Several years later, Steve was part of bringing Grey County transit buses to Shelburne.It was shortly after the task force dissolved, that Councillor Tom Egan suddenly passed, creating a vacancy on Town Council. Steve decided that he should throw his hat in the ring and try to become a part of the commu-nity’s political machine. He faced an uphill battle. Tom Egan had been a much loved member of the community for many years and he left very big shoes to fill, no matter who took over, let alone a new resident, not well known in the community. After going through the selection process, Steve won the appointment and the rest is his-tory, but, not history without effort. Realizing how big of an achievement he had just accomplished, Steve decided that he had to hit the ground running if he was to have any chance of wining the hearts and minds of Shel-burne’s residents and continue in his political endeavours.His first goal was to honour Tom Egan and he did so by getting Council to create the Tom Egan Community Service Award.When Steve was going through the selection process and even before that, on the Transit Task Force, the question came up as to what he thought could be done to make the old and new resident communities more inclusive of each other.The slogan, “Shelburne Stronger Together” originated from this thought. This is what char-acterizes Steve’s community involvement, bring-ing the community together. He was the first councillor in Shelburne, to hold a “meet and greet “ at the Town Library, where constituents could come and meet him, hear his views and present their questions and opinions.Following his first 10 months, Steve let the community know who he was and what to expect. Then came the 2018 municipal elections. As he tells it, Steve never wanted to be Deputy Mayor. He had formed a close friendship with Geoff Dunlop, the Deputy Mayor preceding him and he wanted to see Geoff remain in that posi-tion. I would have been happy just to win a full term on council, he said. But life had other plans and Geoff decided to bow out of politics, leaving Steve feeling like he should run for the position after all. He revealed that his reason for doing so, almost reluctantly, is because if he did not, he felt the community “was going to go off in a direction that he did not think it should be going.”Steve knew he would have to be exceptional to win the seat, but he believed in his vision for the direction of the community and so he took up the challenge.Following his election to the position of Dep-uty Mayor, his political life has become almost as demanding as his career as an attorney.Partially, the reason for this is because of his dedication to welcoming and supporting all the different cultures and populace diversities of Shelburne, while working to help solve the many municipal government problems in the Town. When looking back on his campaign to become Deputy Mayor, one of the things Steve feels most strongly helped him was going door to door with Councillor Walter Benotto. Walter is the longest serving member of council and is very well known in the town, yet together they complimented each other in going door to door. In the newer subdivisions, frequently Steve was recognized and introduced Walter, while in the established parts of town, it was the other way around, but together, they made a solid impres-sion of cooperation and a shared commitment to a Shelburne both embracing the new and holding onto the establishment.When asked if he would consider running for Mayor, Steve was adamant, he will not. He thinks Wade Mills is a good Mayor and a good working partner. They share a similar vision of the Town and Steve is happy being the Deputy Mayor. Serving as Mayor is demanding rand requires a considerable amount of time, which Steve feels, for him, would be better spent continuing his current efforts. One of those efforts was epitomized for Steve in the Black Lives Matter March that was held in Shelburne. He was overwhelmed by the turnout and by the diversity of people who participated. “Black, white, you name it,” said Steve. It was then that the realization came that if he and the Mayor and the Town ever needed a man-date, it was there. The people overwhelmingly were in support of the fundamental right for all people to be included in society as equals. It was a clear indi-cation that it was time to take action and that action became the Anti Racism and Discrimina-tion Taskforce, established by Shelburne Town Council.The task force was established to confront social issues and seek to correct them. One point that was brought up by Steve in the context of having difficult conversations about racism, was that having these conversations does not mean pointing fingers at people. Pointing fin-gers defeats the purpose of discussion. What is needed is collaboration and a willing-ness to listen and work towards rectifying issues, said Steve.Council has set aside $20,000 in its 2021 Bud-get to follow the task force recommendations and advocated for money in future budgets to con-tinue the work and to support new initiatives that may come from this.With the next election only two years away, Steve has put thought into what he wants to do and what he has been able to accomplish. He told the Citizen he isn’t interested in pro-vincial or federal politics, nor the Mayor position but is content being Deputy Mayor and staying in municipal politics, where he can get things accomplished. Steve likes to be able to point to the promises he made and kept, he is proud of his personal brand and what he stands for. He has not done all that he wants to do in Shelburne, he may never, but he wants to try. Steve believes that a man is judged by his accomplishments, not just by his promises and in municipal politics he can live by his own stan-dard and not the will of the party. He can listen to the people and he can try to get them what they want and so for the foreseeable future he is happy being on Town Council.

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Live politics updates: Neera Tanden, Biden's expected pick for budget chief, draws fire from left and right – USA TODAY

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William Cummings
 
| USA TODAY

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Joe Biden fractures foot while playing with dog

President-elect Joe Biden fractured his right foot while playing with one of his dogs, an injury discovered in a scan Sunday and that will likely require him to wear a boot for several weeks, his doctor said. (Nov. 30)

USA TODAY’s coverage of the 2020 election and President-elect Joe Biden’s transition continues this week as he rolls out his picks for top jobs in his administration and states continue to certify their vote counts. 

President Donald Trump has cleared the way for Biden’s team to use federal resources and get briefings during the transition, although Trump has yet to formally concede the race.

Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the election and the transition.

Biden expected OMB pick Tanden draws opposition from left and right 

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to name Neera Tanden as director of the  Office of Management and Budget, according to multiple media reports, drawing angry reactions from progressives and conservatives alike. 

In response to a New York Times article about Tanden’s expected nomination, the communications director for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Tanden, who heads the left-leaning Center for American Progress, “stands zero chance of being confirmed.” 

Drew Brandewie tweeted that Tanden “has an endless stream of disparaging comments about the Republican Senators whose vote she’ll need.” 

Tanden’s reported selection also sparked angry reactions from the left, such as Brianna Joy Gray, the former press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, who called Tanden “a woman who is openly disdainful of Bernie Sanders and his coalition, but who is friendly with extreme bigots online.” Gray was particularly critical of Tanden’s views on Social Security 

“Everything toxic about the corporate Democratic Party is embodied in Neera Tanden,” Gray tweeted. 

Many of those opposed to Tanden’s appointment, including Brandewie and Gray, cited past tweets from Tanden who has been a prolific presence on the social media platform, posting more than 87,000 tweets – including numerous caustic criticisms or replies to criticisms – since joining Twitter in March 2010. By comparison, President Donald Trump has posted nearly 59,000 tweets since joining Twitter a year before Tanden. 

– William Cummings 

Biden names all women to his communications team 

President-elect Joe Biden on Sunday named his White House senior communications staff, choosing a team of all women led by Jen Psaki, a veteran of President Barack Obama’s administration, as his first press secretary. 

Psaki, who wore many hats under Obama including White House communications director, has overseen the confirmations team for Biden’s transition team.

Biden also tapped top campaign aides Kate Bedingfield as White House communications director and Symone Sanders as senior adviser and chief spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris. Bedingfield worked as deputy campaign manager and communications director for the Biden-Harris Campaign. Sanders served as a campaign senior advisor.

Other communications hires are: Elizabeth Alexander, communications director for first lady Jill Biden; Ashley Etienne, communications director for Harris; Karine Jean-Pierre, principal deputy press secretary; and Pili Tobar, deputy White House communications director.

“I am proud to announce today the first senior White House communications team comprised entirely of women. These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better,” Biden said in a statement. 

– Joey Garrison and Bart Jansen 

Trump tweets ‘get well soon’ after Biden fractures foot 

President Donald Trump tweeted, “Get well soon!” Sunday after President-elect Joe Biden sprained his foot the day before after slipping while playing with his dog. 

Biden’s team said he was examined by an orthopedist “out of an abundance of caution.” A CT scan found a hairline fracture in Biden’s foot, which Biden’s doctor, Kevin O’Connor, said would require him to wear a boot for several weeks. 

The president’s tweet wishing his former Democratic opponent well came amid a flurry of posts baselessly claiming without evidence that the election had been “rigged” or stolen for Biden.

– Matthew Brown and William Cummings 

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“Roadkill” Offers the Fantasy of Politics as Usual – The New Yorker

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David Hare’s “Roadkill,” starring Hugh Laurie, is comfortingly old-fashioned.Illustration by Mojo Wang

On Election Night, I was on the live-streaming Web site Twitch, helping a French friend try to make sense of the incomprehensible for an audience of his compatriots. It was two in the morning across the Atlantic, then three, then four, and still viewers stayed tuned. “This is better than a TV show,” one commented, as we puzzled through various disaster scenarios that seemed equal parts outlandish and plausible. Suspense, villainy, pettiness, infighting, gimmicks galore: the reality-TV politics of our reality-TV President have had us mercilessly hooked, from slow-rolling attempt at a coup to dripping-hair-dye debacle. Spare a sympathetic thought for television writers. How can they hope to compete with the present?

Such is the challenge faced by “Roadkill” (on PBS’s “Masterpiece”), David Hare’s new political thriller in four episodes. Watching it now is like chasing the double tequila shot of the real with a milky cup of tea. The show is set in England, which Americans continue to imagine as a land of escapist sanity, despite recent evidence to the contrary. “You have to forget about Brexit,” the Tory transport minister, Peter Laurence (Hugh Laurie), tells a caller to the radio talk show on which he regularly bloviates. “It was a national trauma, as you call it, but it’s a trauma we came through. It’s over.” That reassuring fantasy of politics as usual is one that “Roadkill,” with its small-bore scandals and Victorian twists, faithfully upholds. It’s risk-averse in a way that is itself a kind of risk—comfortingly old-fashioned, at the cost of staying one cautious step behind the present that it aims to represent.

As the show opens, Peter has just had a triumph in court. After a newspaper accused him of profiting from his government position—by consulting for an American lobbying group when he was a junior minister of health—he sued for libel and won. Much like Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, the Laurence case seems to have come down to a question of calendars; Charmian Pepper (Sarah Greene), the journalist who wrote a story placing Peter at the lobbyists’ Washington, D.C., headquarters, was forced to recant, after Peter’s team presented an official diary scrubbed of the offending visit. “They’re always the best cases,” Peter’s young barrister (Pippa Bennett-Warner) brashly tells a colleague, as the courthouse crowd spills onto the sidewalk around her. “The ones you win when you suspect your client is guilty as hell.”

Peter’s victory, and the scandal it conceals, is merely the first plot plate that Hare sets spinning. Soon his trusty, bumbling aide, Duncan Knock (Iain De Caestecker), spirits him to Shephill, a women’s prison, where an inmate (Gbemisola Ikumelo) insists that she must talk to him about his daughter. The daughter who doesn’t speak to him, or the other one? Peter asks. No, a third, the heretofore unknown offspring of a youth spent in drunken philandering. Peter has just enough time to take in this dubious revelation before he must rush off to 10 Downing Street, where he squirms before Dawn Ellison (Helen McCrory), the fearsome Prime Minister, who looks like a dyed tulip in her form-fitting powder-blue suit and has the air of a cat about to pounce. A Cabinet reshuffle is planned; Dawn dangles the possibility of a major promotion, and Peter, blinded by ego, steps obligingly into her trap.

“Roadkill” is a stylish show, with a handsome title sequence that calls to mind the great Saul Bass, and a traipsing score, by Harry Escott, that casts a playful, mysterious mood. We get lots of dark wood, dark suits, and dark corporate cars that glide, unimpeded, down glistening gray streets. Much of the show’s appeal lies in its embrace of the familiar. The gruff, macho newspaper editor (Pip Torrens); the fragile, neglected wife (Saskia Reeves); the chafing, unsatisfied mistress (Sidse Babett Knudsen)—we know them well. But Hare, dazzled by the buffet of tropes available to him, can’t keep himself from loading up his tray. It’s not enough for Peter’s illegitimate child to claim his attention after twenty-odd years; his bratty daughter Lily (Millie Brady), resentful and entitled, must be photographed by the tabloids snorting cocaine. Charmian Pepper, her name taken straight from Dickens’s reject pile, is given an alcohol problem to underscore her instability. (One depressing rule of thumb for this sort of show is that the diligent journalist working to uncover the politician’s dirty truth must be a young woman, the better to be objectified by her bosses and prove her worth as a go-getter even as she trades on her sex appeal. A second depressing rule of thumb is that she must be disposed of, preferably by means of a blunt collision—recalling the hurtling subway train that put an end to Kate Mara in “House of Cards.”) We get riots in prisons, vodka glasses thrown at heads in the heat of domestic anger, and vague, faceless foreign calamities. “It’s about Yemen,” a conniving politico tells the Prime Minister. Isn’t it always?

What kept me watching was Laurie, who floats through the action with a bemused, obliging look on his wonderful lean, lipless face. There is something gentle and appeasing about his Peter, who prides himself on his working-class background, and is susceptible to maverick pricks of conscience—he alienates his party, and seemingly all of Britain, by championing prison reform. (“The British like locking people up. It’s in our character,” the Prime Minister tells him—a line that makes an American feel a little less alone.) In the street, Peter is accosted by selfie-seekers, but at home—where Hare, a seasoned purveyor of female melodrama, unsubtly surrounds him with a pack of women who peck and nag—he is merely baffled, wondering what he’s doing neck-deep in this mess.

Political reputations are made to be won and lost. Private disgrace is harder to grapple with, now that it can be turned public with a click and a swipe. The violation of digital exposure is the subject of “I Hate Suzie” (on HBO Max), a destabilizing, off-kilter show created by Billie Piper and Lucy Prebble. Piper stars as Suzie Pickles, an actress who, like Piper herself, found teen-age stardom as a singer and is now entering the career descent of early middle age. (Action shows in which she runs from Nazi zombies are her bread and butter.) She lives in a cozy house in the English countryside with her husband, Cob (Daniel Ings), and their young son, who is deaf. After her phone is hacked, nude photos of her are splashed all over the Web, in flagrante delicto with a man whose cob is visibly not Cob’s. “There is a penis of color in the pictures,” she is informed by an indignant audience member at a sci-fi convention—an absurdist phrase, at once respectful and rude, that typifies the show’s tart tonal mix.

“I Hate Suzie” has a strange, strong flavor, a briny funk with a surprising undercurrent of sweetness, like Scandinavian licorice. At first, I was repulsed. Then dislike turned to craving. Each of the show’s eight episodes is named for a stage in coping with trauma: we start out with “Shock,” “Denial,” and “Fear,” before progressing through “Shame,” “Bargaining,” and “Guilt” to “Anger” and “Acceptance,” but the artificiality of that structure is undercut by the show’s genuine, exploratory weirdness.

Berated by the furious, wounded Cob, Suzie goes off the rails. Woozy camerawork and screeching, witchy strings take us into a mind altered by drugs, alcohol, and anxiety, but it is Piper’s raw, comical performance as a not so smart woman on the verge that stands out. Suzie mumbles, makes excuses, and tells incompetent lies as the camera shows her aging face in merciless closeup; she is a creature of haphazard instinct and ruinous libido. One excellent early episode looks at desire from within, flashing through an array of Suzie’s sexual fantasies as she and her savvy manager, Naomi (Leila Farzad), analyze them together like critics at a screening. “We’ll sort it out like grownups, like in a Woody Allen film,” her oblivious lover (Nathaniel Martello-White) tells her, a reminder that adulthood is itself a performance, however derivative and imitative, that Suzie, like the rest of us, must make her own. ♦

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