Jim Verhulst - Deputy Editor of Editorials
Here’s what to read from the left and the right | Column
Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
On Jan. 25, 2011, President Barack Obama hugs Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Capitol Hill in Washington,  prior to delivering his State of the Union address. From left are, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Obama, Justice Ginsburg and Justice Stephen Breyer. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool, File)
On Jan. 25, 2011, President Barack Obama hugs Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Capitol Hill in Washington, prior to delivering his State of the Union address. From left are, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Obama, Justice Ginsburg and Justice Stephen Breyer. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool, File) [ PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS | AP ]
Published Jun. 5, 2021

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 “It’s Time for Stephen Breyer to Retire from the Supreme Court,” by Elie Mystal in The Nation.

The context, from the author: The associate justice has served admirably on the Supreme Court for 27 years. But for the sake of our basic rights, he’s got to step down at the end of this term.

The excerpt: There’s nothing anybody can do to force Breyer to give up his lifetime job. He can stubbornly stay for as long as his body will let him — but the reality is that he shouldn’t. It is a bad, illogical, personally selfish decision to stay, even for just another year. The Democratic majority in the Senate is tenuous. In the event of the death of a single Democratic senator from a state with a Republican governor, that majority evaporates. Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republican senators have proved that they will not confirm any justice appointed by a Democratic president. Every day that Breyer stays is a day the Republicans get another spin on the random wheel of death, looking to get just one more vote to block his successor.

From “Are Progressives Finally Ready to Throw Their Weight Around?” by Kara Voght in Mother Jones.

The context, from the author: The dwindling attempts at bipartisanship have opened the door to debate within the Democratic Party, and a return to the dynamic that shaped the COVID relief bill Congress passed in March.

The excerpt: Since Democrats retook the House in 2018, progressives have threatened to disrupt proceedings if they don’t get their way. So far, they’ve rarely exercised that power, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the “squad” have yet to behave like the liberal equivalent of the tea party representatives that made former House Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan’s lives hell.

From “Obama Was Always in Wall Street’s Corner,” by David Sirota in Jacobin.

The context, from the author: Barack Obama is now trying to pretend he was a finance industry critic who was deeply pained by being forced to bail out Wall Street — even though he was Wall Street’s biggest cheerleader and enabler.

The excerpt: In a goldfish culture that forgets its entire world every 15 minutes, we are led to believe that Wall Street was not enthusiastically rewarded for destroying the global economy — and we are asked to forget that the whole grotesque orgy of avarice and corruption ended up setting the conditions for the rise of the tea party and then Donald Trump. Indeed, Obama seems to imply that Trump’s election was a weird anomaly rather than a product of a backlash.


From “The Outsourcing Of America’s Food,” by Austin Frerick in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: They used to grow apples in Iowa; now the apple juice comes from China and it’s just corn and soy as far as the eye can see.

The excerpt: Today, the apple orchards near my grandparents’ house have been replaced by endless rows of corn and soy. In fact, my county lost 88 percent of its apple orchards between 1992 and 2017. Farmers are growing more and more of a few heavily subsidized crops in place of pretty much everything else. The peaches and onions and other crops that used to be grown within the state are now sourced from well beyond its borders. The transformation in Iowa of a diverse agricultural economy into one narrowly focused on a pair of commodity crops is the product of a bigger trend that is taking place throughout our country. A new set of incentives imposed on farmers has mixed with an embrace of unrestricted free trade with countries like China and Mexico to create a dangerous situation: the outsourcing of the American food system.

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From “What Is History For?” by Charlie Sykes in the Bulwark.

The context, from the author: History is supposed to be about remembering. But it is also about forgetting and ignoring. Which brings us to the ongoing fight over how to teach about racism.

The excerpt: Decisions about what we teach and what we ignore are never value neutral. It is never merely the recitation of facts or dates. All societies tell their collective stories that define their identities. So what kind of history do we want? Stories that make us feel good about ourselves? A tool for teaching patriotism? Or do we see it as an opportunity for exploring inconvenient truths that might lead to self-criticism (and possibly redemption)?

From “Gwen Stefani Is Right: Cultural Appreciation Is Not Cultural Appropriation,” by Kylee Zempel in The Federalist.

The context, from the author: The singer Gwen Stefani’s motives should matter, but they don’t. Stefani’s love of Japan and its culture — a love she reiterates in the lyrics of the “Harajuku Girls” song when she says they’ve “got the wicked style” and “I like the way that you are, I am your biggest fan” — underpins her creative decisions.

The excerpt: The modern left, with its influence in boardrooms and newsrooms and classrooms, takes every opportunity to lecture weary Americans about the enduring evil of whiteness and of white supremacy. While their racially charged screeds are almost always unfounded, within their rhetoric is a message that threatens to cultivate white pride where it didn’t exist before. By reinforcing the idea that cultural appreciation is cultural appropriation and therefore racist, woke warriors encourage white people to insulate themselves from the cultures and experiences of others and fully embrace tribalism wherein race is a focal point.


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