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 “The Case Against the Popular Vote,” a parody and parable by Matt Ford in the New Republic.
The context, from the author: What would it sound like if someone proposed the Electoral College for the first time today?
The excerpt: Two hundred years ago, the Founding Fathers made a mistake. They decided that the president of the United States should be elected by a popular vote held among the entire country’s citizens. The results of this flawed system speak for themselves. Under the popular vote, Americans have endured two centuries of elections where the presidential candidate who receives the most votes is also the winner. This is simply too much democracy.
From “Only The Poor Die Young,” by Meagan Day in Jacobin.
The context, from the author: In capitalist America, the rich are outliving the poor at an alarming rate. It’s a grim reality and there’s only one way to end it definitively — moving toward socialism.
The excerpt: How come the wealthy get to walk the earth longer than the poor? Unsurprisingly, some terrible ideas have been floated to explain the trend. In 2004, for example, some researchers claimed that rich people live longer because they are smarter and therefore have superior health literacy, which means they take care of their bodies better. In this view, the deficient poor are to blame for their struggles, both physical and economic. If only they were more intelligent, they would know how to make money, and also that smoking and fast food are bad for them.
From " ‘They’ Just Made the Dictionary," by Justin Agrelo in Mother Jones.
The context, from the author: On Tuesday, Merriam-Webster announced that it had added a nonbinary definition for the singular pronoun “they,” taking the dictionary out of the business of policing gender absolutes.
The excerpt: Merriam-Webster’s move to add the “they” pronoun to their dictionary transcends basic grammar. While queer and trans folks have a long history of identifying outside of the gender binary and have been using genderless pronouns for decades and maybe longer, the wider American culture has been slow to catch up. Cis people have always used the dictionary as a tool to delegitimize the use of a singular “they,” an act of erasure masquerading as mere pedantry. Adding “they” brings to an end Merriam-Webster’s tenure as a sort of hired guard of the gender binary.
FROM THE RIGHT
From “Why Reparations Talk Is Harmful,” by Mona Charen in the National Review.
The context, from the author: If the concept of reparations incites enmity among different groups of black people, just imagine how much tension it will stoke among other groups. My sense, from talking with people who support reparations, is that it really isn’t about the money. It’s about recognition.
The excerpt: As fans of reparations are slow to recognize, we suffer not from too little but from too much race consciousness. In the age of Trump, the percentage of whites who say that whiteness is important to their identity is rising. There is a cost to pitting Americans against one another in an oppression sweepstakes. Of course blacks suffered incalculably during slavery (and after). But their pain cannot be healed by payments to their descendants any more than dead slave owners can be punished by taxes on their progeny. We cannot cure one injustice by imposing another (even if a far lesser one).
From “The Entire News Media Is Biased. They Should Just Embrace It,” by John Daniel Davidson in the Federalist.
The context, from the author: Let’s dispense with the fiction that the media is objective and impartial, and admit that we’ve returned to the historical norm of biased news.
The excerpt: Instead of uniting and binding us together, digital has atomized, fragmented and enervated us. The result, in news media at least, is that everyone’s biases and prejudices are impossible to hide, making a mockery of the idea that the news is “objective” in any meaningful sense. What we have instead is the advent of a kind of digital yellow journalism. There’s a reason President Trump’s “fake news” epithet has been appropriated by both sides of the political divide. It’s really just another way of saying “I don’t recognize your authority over the facts.”
From “The New York Times Has Abandoned Liberalism for Activism,” by Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine.
The context, from the author: The New York Times, by its executive editor’s own admission, is increasingly engaged in a project of reporting everything through the prism of white supremacy and critical race theory, in order to “teach” its readers to think in these crudely reductionist and racial terms.
The excerpt: Arguing that the “true founding” was the arrival of African slaves on the continent, period, is a bitter rebuke to the actual founders and Lincoln. America is not a messy, evolving, multicultural, religiously infused, Enlightenment-based, racist, liberating, wealth-generating kaleidoscope of a society. It’s white supremacy, which started in 1619, and that’s the key to understand all of it. America’s only virtue, in this telling, belongs to those who have attempted and still attempt to end this malign manifestation of white supremacy. I don’t believe most African-Americans believe this, outside the elites. They’re much less doctrinaire than elite white leftists on a whole range of subjects.