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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.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a campaign event Monday in Grimes, Iowa. [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a campaign event Monday in Grimes, Iowa. [PATRICK SEMANSKY | AP]
Published Jan. 26

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

From “Educated Fools: Why Democratic leaders still misunderstand the politics of social class,” by Thomas Geoghegan in the New Republic.

The context, from the author: We liberals talk about the historical obsolescence of the working class as if the working class were not in the room. If we knew any of them personally, we might shut up. Who in the GOP would go to a NASCAR rally and talk about there being no hope for anyone without a four-year degree?

The excerpt: Here’s a little thought experiment: What would happen if, by a snap of the fingers, white racism in America were to disappear? It might be that the black and Latino working class would be voting for Trump, too. Then we Democrats would have no chance in 2020. We often tell ourselves: “Oh, we lost just the white working class because of race.” But the truth might be something closer to this: “It’s only because of race that we have any part of the working class turning out for us at all.”

From “In 2020, Double Standards Are Still Dogging Elizabeth Warren — and All the Women Candidates,” by Joan Walsh in The Nation.

The context, from the author: A record number of women ran for president in this primary election. But that doesn’t mean sexism has been vanquished.

The excerpt: All of the female candidates have been undermined by double standards. When I talk to other women about sexism in the 2020 race, the complaints fall into two categories. First, female candidates get hurt by going on the attack, while men generally don’t. Second, women get dogged to provide more details about their policy plans—and then get criticized for those details.

From “Corporations Would Literally Kill You to Turn a Profit,” by Nicole M. Aschoff in Jabobin.

The context, from the author: the elevation of profit above all else — a defining feature of capitalism — creates a permanent misalignment between the motivations and goals of corporations and those of their stakeholders.

The excerpt: It’s a bit mystifying that there are still some who are surprised that corporations and their executives, left to their own devices, engage in unscrupulous, and sometimes deadly, behavior. Coca Cola killed trade unionists in Latin America. General Motors built vehicles known to catch fire in collisions. Tobacco companies hid the cancer-causing properties of their products for decades. The catalog of the ethical and moral crimes of corporations is impressive.

FROM THE RIGHT

From “Alarmists Were Wrong about the Soleimani Strike,” by Hassan Hassan in the National Review.

The context, from the author: Tehran’s response to it shows that the current U.S. policy toward Iran is working.

The excerpt: The circumstances around Soleimani’s killing exposed not just Iran’s many vulnerabilities and limited options for escalation against the U.S. but also serious myths that shape much of the American perception of the Iranian regime. Specifically, the idea that Iran can inflict damage on the U.S. is an outdated view about the situation in the region.

From “Here’s the Legitimate Question that Should Dominate the Impeachment Trial,” by David French in the Dispatch.

The context, from the author: Some abuses of presidential power are more easily remedied than others.

The excerpt: The checks and balances of the American constitutional republic are far-reaching, and the framers—in their wisdom—established an ultimate check on the president. When no other structure of government can restrain his abuse of power, Congress can impeach him and remove him from office. When presidents promulgate unlawful rules and regulations, we can take them to court. When presidents announce unpopular policies, we can vote for their opponents. When presidents work in secret to substitute their personal priorities for the public good in a strategically vital region of the world, the conventional checks are unreliable. In that context, impeachment is the difference between punishment and permission when a president abuses his power while conducting affairs of state.

From “Mere,” by Wilfred M. McClay in the Hedgehog Review.

The context, from the author: Like a lover of endangered species, the lover of endangered words jumps for joy when he sees a word being rescued.

The excerpt: The way the word able is used in the U.S. Navy, (is) where to be called an “able” seaman is to be sturdily praised. At least this used to be true; I hope it still is today. Such simple and direct usage is, in the fullest sense of the term, no-nonsense; it cuts through the immense fog of verbal inflation that envelops us and shrouds the contours of things, impeding our ability to see, let alone to make accurate judgments. Our language and practices are pretty thoroughly corrupted in this regard. The writer of an academic letter of recommendation knows that to praise a student or colleague as “able” is very nearly to damn him. The recipients of such letters have internalized these same inflationary expectations. If students are not described as brilliant, and nothing is said about their ability to walk on water, that must be a way of signaling that they have so little potential as to be hardly worthy of consideration.

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