1. Opinion

Here’s what to read from the left and the right this week

Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, former Vice President Joe Biden, center, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., raise their hands to speak during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN/New York Times at Otterbein University, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Westerville, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) [JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP]
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, former Vice President Joe Biden, center, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., raise their hands to speak during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN/New York Times at Otterbein University, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Westerville, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) [JOHN MINCHILLO | AP]
Published Oct. 18
Updated Oct. 21

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 “Centrist Democrats Want You To Think They’re The Big Boys On The Stage,” by Elie Mystal in The Nation.

The context, from the author: To stall the progressive momentum, the centrists are trying to recast their ideas as more pragmatic. The problem is, they’re not.

The excerpt: The big, gaping problem in the centrist’s argument for achievable policies is that as long as Mitch McConnell wields power, he will not allow things to be achieved. It doesn’t matter if McConnell is the Senate majority leader or the Senate minority leader; if he survives his reelection campaign, he will not let things pass. All of these Democrats who are opposed to Medicare for All are talking about a public option, as if we are supposed to forget that they failed to get a public option when they controlled 60 votes in the Senate and a popular mandate to act on health care. ... Moderates cannot run around acting like they’re the serious, pragmatic candidates and then expect us to believe that McConnell is going to be visited by three ghosts between the election and the inauguration and wake up willing to let Tiny Tim go see a doctor about his leg.

From “Come On, LeBron,” by Alex Shephard in the New Republic.

The context, from the author: Why LeBron James’s comments on the NBA’s China scandal were so disappointing.

The excerpt: He could have done the right thing and expressed support for the demonstrators, or he could salvage his business interests. He chose the latter.... James has never stayed silent, becoming a model woke superstar. He undid a lot of that work this week.

From “What Liberals Miss About Trump Country,” by Paul Heideman in Jacobin.

The context, from the author: Liberal pundits look at Trump voters and see a monolithic mass of reactionary resentment. But class matters — poor Republicans actually tend to hold progressive views on the economy.

The excerpt: Readers are told again and again that nothing can shake Trump voters’ faith in him, that racism and xenophobia drive everything about their politics, and that they will happily deprive themselves of opportunity if it means they can deprive others as well. ... But what journalists venturing into Trump country miss is that people’s values reflect the actual choices available to them. People facing persistent unemployment because of discrimination and deindustrialization will often respond by demoting work’s importance in their value system. People who live in areas where the welfare state is all but nonexistent probably see a smaller tax burden as a more likely outcome than the government actually helping them, and they order their values accordingly. Or, as in Aesop’s fable, the grapes that are out of reach were probably sour anyway.


From “More Evidence The Guardrails Are Gone,” by David French in the National Review.

The context, from the author: We’re seeing evidence that the guardrails that staff had placed around Donald Trump’s worst instincts were in the process of breaking down. When Trump’s staff was at its best, it was possible to draw a line between “Trump” and the “Trump administration.” Trump was the deeply unconventional leader who made disturbing public statements and appeared to have a fondness for authoritarian dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, but his administration was tougher on Russia than Obama and was refusing to give away the store to North Korea to cut a deal.

The excerpt: The buck stops with the boss. He runs his own administration. That’s why the guardrails couldn’t last. Yes, officials can resign in protest of policies they don’t like. On occasion, some defy his orders. But over time, the president will get what he wants — especially in foreign policy, where his power is at its peak — and when it comes to Ukraine and Syria, that time is now. The results are exactly what you would expect. American diplomacy in a crucial region is hijacked by Trump’s conspiracy theories.

From “Down With The Clapback,” by Matt Purple in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: In the age of Twitter, sassy personal attacks have become a method of left-wing cultural enforcement, displacing argument.

The excerpt: The problem isn’t that politicians are suddenly getting sassy with each other: Ronald Reagan’s “youth and inexperience” line against Walter Mondale is all anyone remembers from that 1984 debate. And even the gold standard of political argument, Lincoln-Douglas, once saw the former call one of the latter’s arguments “as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had been starved to death.” The problem is that we’ve now confused clapbacks with the meat and potatoes of political discourse. Rather than leave insults and punchy remarks where they belong, nestled within larger arguments, we’ve seized on them, torn them out of context, and treated them as arguments themselves.

From “Don’t Be Surprised If Trump Is Never Impeached,” by David Marcus in the Federalist.

The context, from the author: Put simply, the build up to impeachment is much more politically valuable to Democrats than impeachment itself.

The excerpt: An eventual Trump victory in a Senate trial, whenever it comes, perhaps leading into his convention for example, will be used by the president to proclaim total exoneration. “Not guilty!” he will insist. “Proof of the witch hunt!” He’d take victory laps that would put Mario Andretti to shame. And what can the House Democrats say when that happens? That they knew it would happen? That it was inevitable with a GOP majority in the Senate? Well, if so, why did they engage in this farce to begin with? No. Today the inevitable is starting to seem far less likely. The pros of formally impeaching the president are a molehill next the mountain of cons.


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