Jim Verhulst - Deputy Editor of Editorials
Here’s what to read from the left and the right this week | Commentary
Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
In this Aug. 3, 2019, photo, Texas state police cars block the access to the Walmart store in the aftermath of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based discounter says Tuesday, Sept. 3, that it will be discontinuing the sale of short-barrel and handgun ammunition.
In this Aug. 3, 2019, photo, Texas state police cars block the access to the Walmart store in the aftermath of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based discounter says Tuesday, Sept. 3, that it will be discontinuing the sale of short-barrel and handgun ammunition. [ ANDRES LEIGHTON | Associated Press ]
Published Sep. 8, 2019

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. Jim Verhulst of the Tampa Bay Times editorial board compiled these summaries.


From “What If Trump Supporters Love Chaos as Much as He Does?” by Ed Kilgore in New York Magazine.

The context, from the author: Evidence that a significant share of Trump supporters are as nihilistic and destructive as Donald Trump himself supplies a sort of Occam’s-razor answer to all the questions about why they put up with him: His worst traits are a feature, not a bug, for those who take pleasure in chaos.

The excerpt: It would appear that appeals to sweet reason, or even to self-interest, will produce limited results. Maybe it’s enough to drive Trump and his enablers from office, but the longer he’s there, Americans addicted to the chaos he embodies will want more.

From “Open Borders Must Be Part of Any Response to the Climate Crisis,” by Ben Ehrenreich in The Nation.

The context, from the author: This is just the beginning—of the climate crisis, and the political unravelings that will continue to accompany it. And so, it is time to shout, and loudly, that the freedom of all the earth’s people to move across borders must be at the center of any response to the climate crisis. Unless we do, racism and fear — hidden as always in the guise of “security” — will give way to fascism and war before the tides get a chance to drown us.

The excerpt: The metaphor misleads. There’s no lifeboat, just a getaway car, and if you think you’re riding in it, you’re probably wrong. If we are to survive as a species, we must know that no boat can save us except the one we build together. Oil fracked in North Dakota melts glaciers in Greenland and Nepal. Jungle cleared in Indonesia brings drought to Washington and Guatemala, fires to Greece and California, and storms that spread death from Honduras to the Florida Panhandle. Solidarity across all geopolitical boundaries — with one another and against the tiny segment of the planet’s population that is profiting off our demise — is our only hope. Borders can offer no “security,” only a plan for murder-suicide, a delusion that gets more deadly with each passing day.

From “Democrats Need to Decide Whether They Care About Muslim Voters,” by Nick Martin in the New Republic.

The context, from the author: Candidates have been cautious when it comes to openly courting American Muslim voters. Such hollow politics hail from an earlier era, and may cost them dearly.

The excerpt: The problem for American Muslims isn’t one of being able to assert themselves in the nation’s political system. They’ve successfully accomplished that without the establishment’s help and will continue to do so. The issue arises in trying to convince those at the Democratic National Committee to relax into the new era, even if only fractionally, and give their communities not just lip service, but actual consideration.

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From “Walmart’s Retreat on Guns Means Woke Capitalism Is Here to Stay,” by David French in the National Review.

The context, from the author: My first job was selling guns at Walmart. ... So I was more interested than most to read about Walmart’s latest retreat from the firearms business. ... A company born and bred in deep-red America was decisively breaking with the culture that was indispensable in making Walmart the mightiest retailer in the land.

The excerpt: Woke capital is here to stay, and Walmart proves it. At first glance, Walmart’s decision is mystifying. What’s next? NASCAR going all-Prius to save the planet? Even if you grant the reality that Walmart has grown far beyond its original red-state base, why would the company want to alienate half their customer base? But that’s old America-style thinking. This is new America, and new America is in the grips of profound negative polarization. “Negative polarization” means, simply, that Americans who participate in politics are motivated more by distaste (more like disgust) for the other side than they are by any particular affection for their own. Indeed, affection for politicians on your own side is often dependent on the level of disgust they can display for your opposition.

From “Dems Propose First Gun Grab Since Lexington And Concord,” by David Harsanyi in The Federalist.

The context, from the author: The media should stop using absurdly lazy phrases like “mandatory gun buybacks.” Unless the politician they’re talking about is in the business of selling firearms, it’s impossible for him to “buy back” anything. No government official — not Joe Biden, not Beto O’Rourke, not any of the candidates who now support “buyback” programs — has ever sold firearms. What Democrats propose can be more accurately described as “the first American gun confiscation effort since Lexington and Concord,” or some variation on that theme.

The excerpt: Like “Medicare for all,” and other vaguely positive sounding policies, once voters learn what specifics entail, those numbers tend to settle along the usual partisan lines. If you think you’re going to have overwhelming support for “mandatory gun buybacks” when people learn that you’re really talking about “the confiscation of 20 million guns,” you’re fooling yourself.

From “Trump’s Base Fooled by Phony Populism? Hardly,” by Alan Tonelson in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: New data shows the president’s battleground state voters have done very well economically since he took office.

The excerpt: The leading sign (looking at counties that voted twice for Obama, then for Trump is that) in 130 of the 203 Trump flip counties in question, average annual salaries rose faster during the two years Trump has been in office than during the last two Obama years. That’s 64 percent of them.