Jim Verhulst - Editorial Writer
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.

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 “Don’t Embrace Originalism to Defend Trump’s Impeachment,” by Saul Cornell in the New Republic.

The context, from the author: Liberal legal scholars are at risk of falling into a right-wing trap.

The excerpt: Left-leaning legal scholars have let originalists set the terms of constitutional debate for far too long. In constitutional theory, it’s now commonplace to define originalism in opposition to the liberal notion of the living Constitution — i.e., a legal document that responds in line with shifting historical conditions, and whose meaning was not carved permanently in stone like the Ten Commandments presented to Charlton Heston in the Hollywood epic of the same name. Yet even the most ardent champions of a living Constitution do not argue that the original text and meaning of the Constitution are irrelevant; rather, supporters of this alternative theory have always maintained that the concepts articulated in the Constitution must be applied in light of changing facts about American life.

From “The Reasons Republicans Are Still Backing Trump,” by Rebecca Gordon in The Nation.

The context, from the author: The party Trump has inherited is hell-bent on continuing America’s long tradition of racism and imperialism.

The excerpt: The Trump Republican Party has inherited, and continues to make use of, the legacies of this nation’s twin evils: slavery and imperial expansion. We see in its white supremacist strand a commitment to maintaining systems of white superiority that have persisted from slavery through Jim Crow segregation to ever-present threats of violence today. Many white evangelical Christians maintain an enthusiasm for racial separation (as the histories of their flagship universities reveal). They see in Trump a leader who will advocate for white supremacy so they don’t have to.

From “Against Self-Driving Cars,” by Nicole M. Aschoff in Jacobin Magazine.

The context, from the author: Instead of spending billions developing driverless cars we should be building sustainable people-centered transportation.

The excerpt: Self-driving car advocates are remarkably oblivious to the developmental imperatives of a landscape characterized by looming climate catastrophe, underinvestment in basic lifesaving science, resource depletion, and yawing inequality. Instead, they zero in on ordinary working people — drivers — as the problem and support dumping hundreds of billions of dollars into dubious projects that operate on the assumption that if we can just figure out how to eliminate drivers from the equation, poof, we’ll be able to leapfrog the hard political work of developing sustainable transportation.


From “Ladies And Gentleman Of The Jury, Would You Impeach?” by Peter Van Buren in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: The Senate won’t oust Trump, but independents can vote him out. Yet even here the Democrats are failing.

The excerpt: You as independents are the most important group, and you don’t see impeachment as a priority. Yet the Democrats have wasted the majority you helped give them in the midterms to pursue it anyway, because Russiagate failed, the Emoluments Clause failed, the 25th Amendment failed, the Stormy-Avenatti-Michael Cohen show failed, and they are afraid to let people like you vote again. “By any means necessary” meant setting aside the issues you care about to do what they care about instead.

From “This Is What It Looks Like When a Birther Becomes President,” by David French in The Dispatch.

The context, from the author: The impeachment report reminds us that Donald Trump has always been a conspiracy theorist.

The excerpt: As I read through the House impeachment report, I kept having the same, recurring thoughts. This is what happens when the president of the United States is a genuine conspiracy theorist. This is what happens when the president goes one step beyond believing a conspiracy and uses the awesome powers of his office to try to prove a wild fiction.

From “How Secularism Fuels Campus Outrage,” by Alexander Riley in The Federalist.

The context, from the author: When we see others who are not doing as well as we are, we need a method for making sense of that. Without religious beliefs, many people seize upon politics with the same moral fervor.

The excerpt: In the traditional scholarly view, the pursuit of knowledge in institutions of higher education required two central virtues, each one difficult to establish as social practice and in the human self: humility and civility. Humility was needed because the scholar and student alike had to recognize that they might be wrong about things, even important things, and that others might be right, or at least closer to right. To bluster of one’s righteousness, to insult interlocuters with positions unlike our own, to parade arrogantly and narcissistically as though one has figured everything out, is to be the very counter-emblem of humility. But such an attitude makes sense when one has turned one’s guilt into the simple-minded moral universe of woke goodness and non-woke badness.