Selected readings from the left and from the right

Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
Published October 25 2018

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 “Nihilist Nation: The Empty Core Of The Trump Mystique,” by Garret Keizer in The New Republic.

The context, from the author: If you think Donald Trump is wrecking the republic and wonder why so many Americans can’t see that he is, you may be asking the wrong question. What if they see the same thing you do and happen to like what they see?

The excerpt: The reason Trump has managed to get away with a truckload of gaffes and indiscretions, any one of which would have destroyed the career of another politician, is precisely because they make up a truckload. They do not constitute a singular blot on his character; they certify his identity. They prove him to be an authentic iconoclast, a superhero of transgression, the guy who brags about grabbing women’s crotches, makes fun of war heroes and speaks unashamedly of waging nuclear war. He makes Iggy Pop look like Cotton Mather. He can be scary, but he’s never square.

From “Ad Hoc Nation,” by Laura Marsh in The Nation.

The context, from the author: What happened to the steady job? Gig-economy start-ups like to imply that it has outlived its usefulness. Americans are supposed to have rejected it, leaving behind the ornery supervisors, fixed schedules and rigid corporate culture that come with dependable employment. Whether they are freelance writers or cab drivers, engineering contractors or couriers or cleaners, these workers, we are told, want to choose their own hours and assignments — to be their own bosses — and the rise of mobile technology has at last made that possible. Of course, all this independence comes with more than a few drawbacks.

The excerpt: There are hints of disruption and quiet reminders of insecurity anywhere you care to look. You can order almost anything — cleaning, furniture assembly, food — at the touch of a button and never have to go outside or consider the effects of Uber, TaskRabbit, Seamless and Craigslist on the industries they’ve taken over. But at the same time, as you scroll through the apps on your phone, how can you be sure your own job won’t be chopped up and posted on Upwork?

From “A President Who Hates Half The Country Doesn’t Get to Call For ‘Unity,’ ” by Michael Tomasky in the Daily Beast.

The context, from the author: Donald Trump calling for unity, eh? That’s like Ted Nugent calling for restraint, either in rhetoric or on lead guitar; or Harvey Weinstein calling for equal treatment of women; or the guy who painted that painting of Trump and Ronald Reagan playing poker demanding taste.

The excerpt: Presidents are supposed to think ahead, think about how they’re using the prestige of the White House, of their position. Things can get very partisan in this country, and presidents can say things that walk right up to a certain rhetorical line. But they’re supposed to carry around the idea in the back of their head that the day may come, for example, when America is attacked, or when a prominent figure from the other political side dies, or when his own side commits violence. Those are times when the president needs to try to be the president of all the people.


From “I’m An Immigrant, And Trump Represents My Views On Immigration Way Better Than Democrats Do,” by Saritha Prabhu in The Federalist.

The context, from the author: Not too long ago, Democratic leaders talked in rational, truthful ways about immigration. But now many Democratic Party leaders and elected officials espouse open borders, uncontrolled immigration, sanctuary cities and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and dismiss any proposed immigration restriction as racist, nativist, and xenophobic. What happened?

The excerpt: Largely, the people pushing open borders — billionaires, affluent American elected officials, and media members — live in rarefied surroundings largely unexposed to the negative effects of unenforced immigration laws. Their children don’t go to the over-burdened public schools or experience the swamped social services that regular Americans face. It is, therefore, grating to hear political and media elites talk in enlightened, beatific ways about uncontrolled mass immigration when they live in fenced-off estates away from the hoi polloi.

From “The Left’s Untimely Attack on the Electoral College,” by Fred Lucas in The American Conservative.

The context, from the author: Our voting system is a barrier to tribalism, one we need now more than ever.

The excerpt: The left sees moving to the popular vote as a means of gaining power. But a national popular vote isn’t a bad idea because it would help Democrats: It wouldn’t. Rather, it would undermine the vision that a president come as close as possible to representing a broad cross section of the country.

From “Republicans And Pre-Existing Conditions: A Complicated Love Story” by Chris Deaton in the Weekly Standard.

The context, from the author: The core protections (for pre-existing conditions under ObamaCare) ban insurers from turning away applicants and charging higher premiums based on their medical history. These provisions have consistently rated as the most popular significant change the law made to the individual health insurance market. ... The GOP pledged to keep those rules in place. ... There was no reason to doubt Republicans’ sincerity, since opposing the rules was untenable politics. But there is reason to doubt they knew what they were doing.

The excerpt: (The effect of allowing short-term state insurance plans that ban people with pre-existing conditions) relates to cost and not availability. While consumers can be denied short-term coverage (in some states’ plans) because the plans are not subject to Obamacare’s regulations (on pre-existing conditions), consumers are still guaranteed the right to purchase an Obamacare-compliant plan. It’s just that under this new arrangement, the availability of the short-term plans (for healthier people) could make the premiums of the Obamacare-compliant plans more expensive. Whether or not this is fair is a policy preference.