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  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.

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 “Where Is the Outrage Over the War in Afghanistan?” by Jeet Heer in The Nation.

The context, from the author: A new Washington Post report proving the longest war in American history has been sold on lies for 20 years causes barely a ripple.

The excerpt: The American public is insulated from the Afghan War in ways it wasn’t from the Vietnam War. Unlike Vietnam, there is no draft. The all-volunteer army means the soldiers who fight are a distinct social caste that exists apart from American society in way that wasn’t true in the age of conscription. Nor is the war being paid for by tax hikes or war bonds. Debt financing means the ultimate financial cost of war will not come due for many years.

From “Trump’s Loyal Apprentice in Congress,” by Jacob Bacharach in the New Republic.

The context, from the author: Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican, has all the cocksure swagger of a reality television contestant.

The excerpt: In Gaetz, we do, at last, have some semblance of a (reality show) contestant willing to perform any trick to win. He has internalized the most elemental truth of the reality show: Each season is defined not by its winners, but by its villains — the scoundrels who don’t “come to make friends.” He is a ball of contradictory impulses, bringing a Holocaust denier to the State of the Union one minute and in the next defending Democrat Katie Hill from a revenge porn scandal.

From “False Idol — Why the Christian Right Worships Donald Trump,” by Alex Morris in Rolling Stone.

The context, from the author: In a key meeting with conservative evangelical leaders, candidate Donald Trump was not positioning himself as a true believer — “You know, I went to Sunday school,” he said with a shrug — but rather as a strongman, the likes of which the religious right had never seen.

The excerpt: By creating a narrative of an evil “deep state” and casting himself — a powerful white man of immense generational wealth — as a victim in his own right, Trump not only tapped into the religious right’s familiar feeling of persecution, but he also cast himself as its savior, a man of flesh who would fight the holy war on its behalf. “There’s been a real determined effort by the left to try to separate Trump from his evangelical base by shaming them into, ‘How can you support a guy like this?’ ” (Robert) Jeffress (the head of 14,000-member megachurch First Baptist Dallas) tells me. “Nobody’s confused. People don’t care really about the personality of a warrior; they want him to win the fight.” And Trump’s coming to that fight with a firebrand’s feeling, turning the political stage into an ecstatic experience — a conversion moment of sorts — and the average white evangelical into an acolyte, someone who would attend rallies with the fever of revivals, listen to speeches as if they were sermons, display their faithfulness with MAGA hats, send in money as if tithing, and metaphorically bow down, again and again, at the altar of Donald Trump, who delivers the nation from its transgressions.


From “We Can End The Forever War,” by Daniel Larison in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: Presidents don’t seek congressional or public approval before they launch new wars now, but simply order them to begin on the assumption that no one will be able to stop them. Our government routinely violates the sovereignty of other states and presumes to have the right to carry out attacks wherever it likes.

The excerpt: War becomes normalized when it is taken for granted that the U.S. is always acting morally even when it engages in aggression and tramples on international law. Instead of seeing resorting to force as the rare exception, it becomes the default response. Peace becomes almost unthinkable because we have become so accustomed to living without it. We haven’t lived in peacetime in more than 18 years, and there are now generations of Americans that cannot remember a time when the U.S. did not have troops fighting in a number of foreign countries.

From “Take Note, Democrats: The UK Election Was A Referendum On Progressivism,” by Erielle Davidson in The Federalist.

The context, from the author: The crushing defeat of (Labour Party leader Jeremy) Corbyn, while reinvigorating for the project of Western democracy, may be a warning bell for the American Left.

The excerpt: It would be wise for American Democrats to take stock of their own progressivism and heed the warning put forth by the U.K. election. Indeed, as U.K. voters show us, it’s possible that not everyone is ready for their anti-capitalist, anti-Western utopia.

From “Common Good Conservatism Has a Trump Problem,” by David French in the Dispatch.

The context, from the author: It’s hard to sell arguments on family stability and social cohesion when you support a thrice-married adulterer who seeks only to “own the libs.”

The excerpt: Outside the right-wing bubble, Trump support undermines “common-good conservatism.” Here’s a test — let me write two declarative sentences, and you tell me if you see any contradiction. Sentence one: “I support a politics of the common good, where the levers of state power are used to defeat the sexual libertinism of the porn industry, foster and support the stable, two-parent nuclear family, build social cohesion and social solidarity, and protect against exploitive capitalists who enrich themselves at the working man’s expense.” Sentence two: “I support Donald Trump.”