They Say A Party Can Kill You

Nicco Mele
6 min readDec 31, 2020

Ah, 2020. What a year. This New Year’s Eve I’m thinking of a sculpture I saw years ago at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. “Milkstone” by Wolfgang Laib is a large square slab of white marble sitting on the floor of an empty room, rising just a few inches above the cement. At first, it seemed one of those all-too-clever echoes of Duchamp. But a tremor echoed across the surface of the marble — maybe someone walked across the room and the floor shook ever so slightly — and I realized that it wasn’t just marble; it was also milk. The marble slab is actually a shallow bowl and every few hours a curator cleans the stone, pouring in fresh milk until it looks like a solid slab of marble again.

It is hard to describe the effect of this piece; this short video comes closest (although the Milkstone I saw was much larger). The milk is soft, liquid, and short-lived; the marble is hard, solid, infinitely eternal. Two things that could not be more different, really. And yet they’re the same thing, for a few hours.

2020 was like a milkstone. So much squishy, short-lived stuff on top, always about to sour, constantly more being poured in, cleaning out what was there before. But underneath some rock solid fundamentals, not about to go anywhere, hard truths with us for the long haul. Which is which?

As I’m sure you’re tired of hearing, it is going to get crazier. I’m quite certain Rule 1 will hold in 2021; if anyone was under any illusion that now things will return to “normal”, let me outline just a handful of things that have happened in the last seven days while you were enjoying your holiday fruitcake and trifle:

  • Next week’s fireworks: When Congress meets next week to certify Biden’s victory in the Electoral College, it looks like as many as 100 Members of Congress — more than 20% of the legislative body — will seek to overturn the results of the election. (If you want to know how we get to that number, listen to this podcast with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); the Hill is tracking the number of on-the-record Members here.) At least one US Senator plans to contest the Electoral College results, and I’d wager good money he won’t be the only one. While I’m confident Biden will still win, chaos will roil the halls of Congress, and Trump and his friends (and enemies!) in the media will have months, years, even decades of grievance with which to undermine President Biden and those that follow.
  • Meanwhile, Pelosi is going to honor the results of a House…
Nicco Mele

formerly of @LATimes & @Kennedy_School - author of The End of Big - lots more at — Opinions are my own and not the views of my employer.