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  1. Opinion

Selected readings from the left and from the right

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 RBG Election," by Matt Ford in the New Republic.

The context, from the author: Another four years of Trump will widen the conservative tilt of the Supreme Court. So why aren't the Democratic candidates talking about it?

The excerpt: Thanks to Trump's victory and (Justice Anthony) Kennedy's retirement, Democrats can't hope to secure a liberal majority on the court any time soon. That doesn't mean 2020 won't matter for the court's trajectory, though. There's a tangible difference between a 5-4 conservative court and a 6-3 one.

From "What Black Life Actually Looks Like," by Cedric Johnson in Jacobin Magazine.

The context, from the author: For too long, the Left has organized based on caricatures of black political life. If it wants to win, it needs to start recognizing the role of class in black America.

The excerpt: In the age of Black Lives Matter protests, many activists and academics seem unable to see the complexity of black life beyond the barricades, or outside the frame of the latest viral video killing of a black civilian.

From "2021 Could Be a Nightmare for Democrats — Even If Trump Loses," by Eric Levitz in New York Magazine.

The context, from the author: Trump's reelection would be a nightmare. But for Democrats, defeating him and winning the presidency in 2021 could be its own kind of horror show. If a Democrat wins the presidency next year, there's a good chance he or she won't be able to do much of anything without (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell's permission.

The excerpt: Odds are, if a Democrat moves into the Oval Office in 2021, he or she will be faced with a Republican Senate. Which means that he or she will not have the power to appoint any Supreme Court justices or, in all probability, left-leaning federal judges of any kind. And do you really think Senate Republicans are going to help President Elizabeth Warren install her preferred leaders atop the Treasury or SEC?


From "Felicity Huffman and the Stagecraft of Apologies," by Kevin D. Williamson in the National Review.

The context, from the author: You're not sorry if you're trying to get something by saying so.

The excerpt: (Caught up in the college admissions scandal, the actress gave) a classical good apology: admission of guilt, statement of regret, specific acknowledgments of harm done — and no excuses. No sudden recollection of childhood abuse or trauma, no prescription-drug side effects, no checking herself into rehab. That's the kind of apology that might keep you out of jail. And it's an increasingly rare thing.

From "It's Time to End the Death Penalty Nationwide," by Dan King in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: No more excuses. We're the only Western nation that still executes prisoners and it's time for it to stop.

The excerpt: Many conservatives argue that the death penalty is a strong deterrent against severe crimes, such as murder, but the experts disagree. In fact, 88 percent of criminologists believe that capital punishment "does not add any significant deterrent effect above that of long-term imprisonment." Additionally, proponents argue that the death penalty is reserved for those who clearly committed heinous crimes. While that may be true in theory, in practice this simply isn't the case.

From "The Real Reason Democrats Hate Bill Barr," by David Harsanyi in the Federalist.

The context, from the author: The attorney general's greatest sin is accuracy.

The excerpt: Barr had apparently masterminded the most inept cover-up in history, first by accurately laying out the outcome of the special counsel's investigation. Then, after some light redactions (none instigated by the president), by releasing the report to the public so everyone in the entire world could read it for themselves.