Selected readings from the left and from the right

Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
Published March 22

By Jim Verhulst

Of the Tampa Bay Times editorial board

We live in a partisan age, and our news habits can reinforce our own perspectives. Consider this an effort to broaden our collective outlook with essays beyond the range of our typical selections.


From “Listening to Michael Jackson Will Never Be the Same,” by David Hajdu in the Nation.

The context, from the author: What it means to listen to Michael Jackson’s music after HBO’s “Leaving Neverland.”

The excerpt: For me, Jackson’s music sounds different now, and not quite so great anymore. It’s the same, aurally, of course, but it’s been reshaped in my mind by a new set of associations. Where I once found high theatricality in songs like “Thriller” and “Heal the World,” I now hear falseness and empty show. Where I found warmth in love songs like “Human Nature” and “Loving You,” I’m now reminded of the contortions Jackson went through to exploit his victims’ ardor. Where I felt euphoria in songs like “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” I can think only of the ways in which Jackson allegedly provided himself with sexual pleasure.

From “Trump and His Allies Have Lost the Public Debate Over Immigration,” by Noah Lanard in Mother Jones.

The context, from the author: Under President Donald Trump, anti-immigrant sentiment has fallen even further as the president’s rhetoric about immigrants alienates large swaths of the public.

The excerpt: The United States is in the midst of a two-decade-long shift in favor of immigration, and it is only accelerating under Trump. For all the nativist movement’s efforts over the decades to rein in immigration, the chances of preserving a white majority are effectively gone.

From “A Real Green New Deal Means Class Struggle,” by Keith Brower Brown, Jeremy Gong, Matt Huber and Jamie Munro in Jacobin Magazine.

The context, from the authors: If we want a Green New Deal that can take on climate change, we need to challenge powerful business interests. ... In the likely case we don’t completely end capitalism in the next decade, we need a plan for effectively dealing with climate change anyway.

The excerpt: Why would the working class unite for a GND? For one thing, working people are set up to suffer the worst effects of climate devastation — especially where poverty or oppression make it far harder to survive, move, or adapt. Stopping climate change will take massive amounts of work to transform the economy, and a GND can be a vehicle to build the power, unity, and material conditions of all working people. Working-class people therefore have a common interest to stop climate change through a GND. A strategy of building working-class power and waging class struggle from below is the only thing that can save the planet.


From “There Goes the Neighborhood,” by Michael Brendan Dougherty in the National Review.

The context, from the author: Just about every day that I get in the car I drive past a sign that says, “Caution: Children at Play.” In a decade, I’ve never seen a child at play on that street. ... The helicopter and snowplow parents with means have withdrawn their children from the street, and often their homes from the “parental commons,” the system of expectations and resources that were held in common by members of a neighborhood that allows it to support its own kids’ socialization without intense supervision and micromanagement.

The excerpt: By the time kids are old enough to go out on their own, parents have usually had a number of unforgiving interactions in which adults made them and their children feel unwelcome in any public space. So they fear Child Protective Services or other agencies getting called on them for allowing their kids what used to be a normal level of independence. I know I’ve already seen other parents react with concern and horror at seeing my own kids alone for even a few seconds before they notice that I’m just 20 yards away myself.

From “The Chilling Censorship of the Christchurch Shooting,” by Barbara Boland in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: Rather than expunging information about the killer, we should be confronting evil head on.

The excerpt: Can we prevent evil by simply deleting its mention online? Imagine if the same decision had been made in the wake of other horrific historic crimes. Should we delete all footage of 9/11 from YouTube? How about never uttering the name Osama bin Laden or the acronym ISIS? What about banning all mentions of Adolf Hitler, burning all copies of Mein Kampf, and deleting all references to the Holocaust from our history books, lest we inspire neo-Nazis? Would these actions honor the memory of the dead, or simply erase their suffering? Such logic would replace “never forget” with “never remember.”

From “Without The Electoral College, The United States Is No Longer A Republic,” by Sumantra Maitra in the Federalist.

The context, from the author: Democratic candidates’ demands of abolishing the Electoral College and reducing the voting age will eventually lead to the death of our country as we know it.

The excerpt: When liberal theorists talk about the majority of people opposing the Electoral College, they make the exact case that Hamilton so eloquently foreshadowed. The very fact that the majority wants majoritarianism is why the Electoral College exists in the first place. Otherwise, three cities in the United States would decide the fate of the entire country, and a charismatic smooth-talker would eventually turn into Caesar. If the left actually read Hamilton, instead of watching the far stupider Broadway show, they would realize that while they blather about Donald Trump being a populist, true populism — whether far left or ultra-right — will be unleashed if the dam is truly broken. History and future are fickle. And federalism is the only thing that keeps any majoritarianism in check in favor of prudence and restraint.