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 THE LEFT
From “Before Sweden Was Social-Democratic,” an interview with Erik Bengtsson in Jacobin.
The context: Swedish social democracy is often thought of as somehow eternal — the fruit of a solidaristic national culture, or even its historic homogeneity. But Sweden used to be just as unequal as other European countries — and making social democracy “normal” took a fight against what was once considered traditional.
The excerpt: I see the tendency to homogenize Swedish history and remove the conflicts, contradictions, and reversals as one instance of this kind of history-writing. Here, historians, working from a more or less conservative standpoint, aim to assert that not much changed in the past, and so the present cannot be changed either. To demonstrate Sweden did not become egalitarian or social-democratic by virtue of some sort of ancient tradition, reinforces the counterpoint — that societies do change because of politics, because of conscious human action, and that in this sense, politics and organizing are indeed meaningful.
From “Ending Poverty Will Require a Movement Led by Poor People,” by Greg Kaufmann in the Nation.
The context, from the author: No new census data, policy paper, or talking point will do it. That’s why the Poor People’s Campaign is building “a movement that votes.”
The excerpt: What is really needed to make dramatic progress towards the elimination of poverty remains unchanged, as it has for the past 40 or so years: a mass movement led by directly-impacted people who will organize, take direct action, and create the political will necessary to embrace available solutions. I’ve written or spoken some version of that sentence so many times over the past decade that it brings to mind the iconic typewriter scene in The Shining, in which Wendy Torrance discovers that the novel her husband has been working on is just reams of paper with a single sentence written over and over.
From “'Just Ask!' Says Sonia Sotomayor. She Knows What It’s Like To Feel Different,” by Samantha Balaban on NPR.
The context: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has written a children’s book called Just Ask! inspired by her desire to help kids embrace diversity, inspired by an episode when someone saw her in a restaurant injecting insulin to treat her diabetes.
The excerpt: Sotomayor was in the restaurant bathroom, just finishing up her injection when another woman walked in. They both returned to their dinners, but as Sotomayor left the restaurant, she heard the woman from the restroom say: “She’s a drug addict.” Sotomayor stopped, turned around, and said: “Madam, I am not a drug addict. I am diabetic, and that injection you saw me give to myself is insulin. It’s the medicine that keeps me alive. If you don’t know why someone’s doing something, just ask them. Don’t assume the worst in people.” And walked away.
FROM THE RIGHT
From “Why Do So Many Republican Voters Support Trump? A Theory,” by Jonah Goldberg in the National Review.
The context, from the author: Many voters understand how polls can be used as weapons and don’t want to give the “enemy” any satisfaction.
The excerpt: The wartime atmosphere Trump has established encourages partisans to overlook faults with their own side more than ever, because in the zero-sum logic of war, any dissent is seen as providing aid and comfort to enemies who would be worse if they gained power. Perhaps counterintuitively, Trump’s myriad and manifest flaws actually intensify the effect. The need to justify your support makes it impossible to acknowledge any shortcomings at all.
From “Want More Energy and Less Climate Change? Plant Trees,” by James Pinkerton in the American Conservative.
The context, from the author: If we wish to rally as many people as possible to the cause of sequestering CO2, we should wish to plant as many trees as possible.
The excerpt: Here’s a reality-gram -- this economy can’t be operated, and thus the nation can’t be governed, from the green left. As Mark P. Mills of the Manhattan Institute has demonstrated, the “good” energy sources, solar and wind, will probably never come anywhere close to providing the juice the world needs. So that takes us back to carbon fuels, and thus to carbon capture
From “Four Ways To Use Government To Make America More Friendly To Christians,” by Lyman Stone in the Federalist.
The context, from the author: The crazy thing is, it’s not a mystery what policies could have a real shot at making American friendlier to conservative values and priorities. There are a limited number of policies that we can say have a good probability, based on observed history, of actually making Americans more socially conservative, and even more religious.
The excerpt: (One of my four ideas is to) re-instate blue laws. Banning alcohol sales, or even non-essential retail sales generally, on Sundays, has been academically shown to reduce alcoholism, reduce drunk driving deaths, increase voter participation, and increase church attendance. Sunday closure rules used to be common in America. Today they are increasingly rare. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that Sunday closure laws are perfectly constitutional. This policy is constitutional.