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 THE LEFT
The context, from the author: Is the Democratic coalition too big to win the presidency in 2020? It sounds like a joke — a political version of the old Yogi Berra one-liner about a local restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Yet however paradoxical, the statement about the Democrats may nonetheless be true. The party could well be too capacious to coalesce around any single candidate with sufficient intensity to take down President Donald Trump.
The excerpt: The distance separating Bernie Sanders from Michael Bloomberg is impossibly vast. Yet those are the ideological boundaries of the Democratic Party in 2019.
From “In The 2010s, White America Was Finally Shown Itself,” an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates by Zak Cheney-Rice in New York Magazine’s Intelligencer.
The context, from the interviewer: If the racial politics of the 2010s has a definitive chronicler, it is Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose magisterial 2014 Atlantic essay “The Case For Reparations” forced Americans to reckon with slavery, Jim Crow, and redlining in ways that many of them never had.
The excerpt, from one of Coates’ responses: The Republican Party is effectively a white party in this country. It’s the party of a white majority that greatly fears becoming a white minority. You have to separate the fact of Obama being a black man from the fact that that black man represented a multiracial party. That’s very, very important.
From “Democrats Don’t Need Mike Bloomberg’s Kinder, Gentler Plutocracy,” by John Nichols in The Nation.
The context, from the author: If the Democrats trade a faux billionaire for a legit billionaire, then they haven’t learned much from the last four years.
The excerpt: The prospect that Bloomberg, who is worth something like $54 billion, could buy a place on the debate stage has got the DC insiders and the billionaire class all atwitter. He offers them more of the politics they know. The problem is, the politics Democratic insiders and their amen corner want to rebuild is the politics of caution and compromise that created an opening for Trump in 2016. And more of the same is not going to close the door on Trumpism in 2020.
FROM THE RIGHT
From “It’s Time For Term Limits On The Supreme Court,” by John Fund in the National Review.
The context, from the author: Supreme Court term limits have broad bipartisan support, and they might reduce the hysteria of nomination battles.
The excerpt: It’s a good thing that modern medicine is extending the lives of everyone, including Supreme Court justices. But the time has come to remove the incentives that make justices serve until they drop dead or are gaga. It’s time to put term limits on the Supreme Court. ... Fix the Court has come up with a bipartisan proposal for 18-year term limits for the Supreme Court. A vacancy would come up every two years, meaning that every president would have at least two appointments in each term. The proposal could be enacted without amending the Constitution.
From “Don’t Blame Trade For Static Living Standards,” by Jon Basil Utley in the American Conservative.
The context, from the author: The real culprit is the trillions we pay in defense and medical costs each year.
The excerpt: All democracies are vulnerable to special interests trying to obtain monopoly profits and prevent competition. The military industrial complex and its sister, the medical-industrial complex, together exert enormous political power to suck out more and more of our national wealth. The numbers have become incredible: over $1 trillion a year for “defense” and nearly 20 percent (over $3.5 trillion) of our gross national product spending for medical costs, more than twice the percentage of many advanced European nations. ... Despite all these costs, America’s economic system creates so much new wealth that living standards have still been rising.
From “Getting Wonky About War Crimes,” by David French in The Dispatch.
The context, from the author: Many Pentagon officials are troubled by Trump’s actions (in military pardons he has issued). It’s one thing to unshackle troops from onerous rules of engagement that are defined by the command. It’s another thing entirely to unshackle them from the law.
The excerpt: As the Twitter saying goes, two things can be true at once. First, for many years (especially during Obama’s Afghanistan surge) American warfighters were excessively handcuffed by onerous rules of engagement. Second, while onerous rules of engagement have generated justifiable sympathy for American soldiers, Trump’s pardons have nothing to do with handcuffed American troops and everything to do with excusing actual war crimes.