1. Opinion

Selected readings from the left and from the right

Published Jun. 14, 2019

By Jim Verhulst

Of the Tampa Bay Times editorial board compiled these summaries.

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 State of Emergency," by Ed Burmila in the New Republic.

The context, from the author: If President Donald Trump wanted to give himself sweeping new powers, could anyone stop him?

The excerpt: Once a president assumes emergency powers, there is no need for courts. The biggest cause for concern is Trump himself. It is impossible to say with any conviction at all, "Trump wouldn't do that." What if he gets desperate? What if he gets irrationally angry? What if he's faced with the possibility of being indicted if he loses the election?

From "Republicans Bet 'Medicare for All' Hearings Would Divide Democrats. They Were Wrong," by Kara Voght in Mother Jones.

The context, from the author: Democrats may not agree on single payer, but they all know who's undermining health care.

The excerpt: Republican lawmakers had bet that hearings for the U.S. House's "Medicare for All" bill would surface deep disagreements among Democrats over their vision for the country's health care system. But on Wednesday the bill was debated in its highest-profile venue yet, and instead of initiating an intraparty pillow fight, Democrats made a show of solidarity. They discredited the GOP's attacks with a reminder of that party's attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

From "The NRA's Circular Firing Squad," by Danny Katch in Jacobin Magazine.

The context, from the author: A civil war within the National Rifle Association has allowed us a look inside the supposedly all-powerful gun lobby. And it's given us some good news: the NRA's power has been wildly exaggerated. It can be defeated.

The excerpt: As the pace of mass shootings has accelerated in the 21st century, the NRA has also become a conveniently Republican scapegoat that allows Democrats to ignore their own continued support for permanent war, police militarization, economic insecurity and hopelessness and other policies that are clearly related to our national gun sickness. What clever centrist strategists never seemed to realize is that the dual tack of hyping the NRA's power as a destructive right-wing force and then citing their power as a reason to be moderate only made these moderates appear to be even more cowardly and unprincipled.


From "Why Are the Western Middle Classes So Angry?" by Victor Davis Hanson in the National Review.

The context, from the author: Rather than answer voters' concerns, managerial elites mock them, while escaping the consequences of their own disastrous policies.

The excerpt: The wealthy had the means and influence not to be bothered by higher taxes and fees, or to avoid them altogether. Not so much the middle classes, who lacked the clout of the virtue-signaling rich and the romance of the distant poor.

From "To Make America Great Again, The Right Needs To Learn How To Run Bureaucracies," by Lyman Stone in the Federalist.

The context, from the author: Every Republican administration faces a problem when they come into office: how to fill the innumerable appointments and support roles in modern government with people who will reliably advance a conservative vision of government.

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The excerpt: You can't drain the swamp without first becoming an expert in, well, swamps. If you want to hunt wild boars, you had best bring your spear. One cannot expect to defeat the modern administrative state without an actual mastery of administration. Until the conservative movement makes a serious, long-term effort to train young people to manage the federal bureaucracy competently until it can be reduced, the swamp will keep winning. Conservative leaders will continue to be hamstrung by uncooperative agencies, tut-tutting middle management, quiet obstruction from the bureaucracy and repeated defeats in the courts.

From "Are Abortion and Gay Rights Really American Values?" by Patrick J. Buchanan in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: What are these "values" of which politicians incessantly talk? Are they immutable? Or do they change with the changing times?

The excerpt: With secularism's triumph, we Americans have no common religion, no common faith, no common font of moral truth. We disagree on what is right and wrong, moral and immoral.

Without an agreed-upon higher authority, values become matters of opinion. And ours are in conflict and irreconcilable.