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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.
Violent insurrectionists loyal to then President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.
Violent insurrectionists loyal to then President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. [ JOSE LUIS MAGANA | AP ]
Published Jan. 15

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 “The Jan. 6 Insurrectionists Begging for Pardons Sound an Awful Lot Like Confederate Soldiers,” by Anthony Conwright in Mother Jones.

The context, from the author: The historical resonances are astounding.

The excerpt: The attempt by Trump and the Jan. 6 insurrectionists to justify their actions was prophesied in a November 1868 report by Army Gen. George Henry Thomas, a Virginian who had fought for the Union only to see former Confederates rewrite their rebellion in a positive light: “The greatest efforts made by the defeated insurgents since the close of the war have been to promulgate the idea that the cause of liberty, justice, humanity, equality … suffered violence and wrong when the effort for southern independence failed … whereby the crime of treason might be covered with a counterfeit varnish of patriotism.” That counterfeit varnish had a ripple effect: The Confederate pardons helped spur the collapse of Reconstruction and continuation of the deadly abuses against Black Americans. By the end of 1865, four Confederate generals, five Confederate colonels, six members of the Confederate Cabinet, and 58 members of the Confederate Congress ran for seats in the Congress they tried to destroy.

From “Bernie Wants Democrats to Fight for the Working Class. They Won’t,” by Neal Meyer in Jacobin.

The context, from the author: Bernie Sanders is sounding the alarm — working-class people are fed up with Democrats’ failed strategy of behind-the-scenes negotiations. But the party won’t listen.

The excerpt: There’s the real roadblock — Democrats have two bases. The first base is among the voters, a base they readily take for granted except during elections, when they deploy the well-worn demand that voters fall in line to “save democracy.” The second base is in the ruling class. This is the base they would never dare to consider taking for granted.

From “How the Left Alienates Jews,” by Alexis Grenell in The Nation.

The context, from the author: Jewish voices are too often excluded from precisely the conversations they should be leading.

The excerpt: In the taxonomy of oppression, the left doesn’t leave much room for the experience or perspective of Jews, in part because we’re mostly racialized as white and enjoy the benefits thereof. The corollary to that designation, however — which is where the wheels come off the wagon — is the notion that we’re not “systemically” discriminated against. Indeed, compared with Black people, we’re not. ... (But) those of us who aren’t immediately identifiable as Jews still contend with widespread conspiracy theories about how we secretly control the media, the money supply, and all the world’s power.

FROM THE RIGHT

From “Joe Manchin Was Right,” by Charles C.W. Cooke in The National Review.

The context, from the author: The contrast between Joe Biden and Joe Manchin over the last year has been stark.

The excerpt: Since he took office last January, Biden has constructed a fantasy world for himself — a world in which he enjoys FDR-sized majorities in Congress; in which the mere fact of his being in the Oval Office would cause the virus to disappear; in which he was elected to transform the country rather than to be a caretaker; in which Twitter reflects real life rather than an extreme subset of the population; and in which inconveniences such as unemployment, supply-chain limitations, and inflation can be banished with rhetoric from the White House podium. Manchin, meanwhile, has kept his feet firmly on the ground — respecting basic economic reality, remembering that he is from West Virginia rather than Washington, D.C., recognizing that the country did not accord the Democrats a mandate for revolution, recalling that Democrats are capable of losing elections as well as winning them, and apprehending that his job requires him to think in the long term as well as in the short.

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From “The Post-Liberals’ Fight For The Weekend,” by Sohrab Ahmari in The American Conservative.

The context, from the author: Can any other issue unite the core constituencies of the new right quite like Sabbath restoration?

The excerpt: Sabbath speaks profoundly to the restlessness and misery that is the lot of millions of Americans. The erasure of the boundary between toil and rest is something felt as much by white-collar professionals as by working-class Americans, albeit in different ways. America’s blue laws were abolished in the name of freedom, but it turned out to be freedom for Jeff Bezos and other large employers. Not freedom for workers or families. Plus, the Sabbath is good realignment politics, at a time when workers have the job-market advantage.

From “Florida Is Now a MAGA Megachurch,” by Jim Swift in The Bulwark.

The context, from the author: Ron DeSantis’ Don’t Call It a Presidential Campaign has convinced a lot of people to performatively move to the Sunshine State. Viewed a certain way, Florida now resembles something of a MAGA megachurch, with Donald Trump as God and DeSantis as the smiling, well-heeled pastor.

The excerpt: There is something a little bit weird about moving to a state because you like the politicians who live there. Ron DeSantis won the governor’s race in 2018 by 34,000 votes. If Andrew Gillum were governor and former president Trump had gone back to the Big Apple, would all of these people be upending their lives and moving to Florida? I kind of think they would not. Again, that’s their right. But “creepy” would not be too strong a word. This all seems less like the Okies migrating to California than people leaving Indiana for Guyana. Let’s hope the great Florida migration has a happier ending.