1. Opinion

Selected readings from the left and from the right

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 "Am I An American?" by Ibram X. Kendi in the Atlantic.

The context, from the author: President Trump's tirade against four minority congresswomen prompts the question: Whom does he consider to be American?

The excerpt: I do not know if I'm still three-fifths of an American, as my ancestors were written into the U.S. Constitution. Or fully American. Or not American at all. What I do know is that historically, people like me have only truly been all-American — if all-American is not constantly being told to "go back to your country" or "act like an American" — when we did not resist enslavement on a plantation, or in poverty, or in a prison with or without bars shackling our human potential and cultural flowering.

From "Racism Is Not a Winning Issue for Trump," by Jeet Heer in the Nation.

The context, from the author: Pundits think Trump's bigotry benefits him — but a united Democratic Party can easily win.

The excerpt: Trump will almost certainly want to make the 2020 election all about racism. It's the magic formula that has brought him far in life, and he's on solid ground in thinking that it's the best way to unify the Republican party, which is ever more reliant on squeezing out the white vote — and suppressing voters of color. But Democrats can't duck out of this fight: The lesson from 2016 and subsequent midterms is that Democrats do best when they mobilize their own base, a multiracial coalition that is larger than the GOP base.

From "Trump and His Deplorables," by Matt Ford in the New Republic.

The context, from the author: The president's racist attack on four Democratic congresswomen warrants universal condemnation, yet his supporters and party largely stand by him.

The excerpt: Two years into Trump's presidency, "deplorable" seems almost kind. It's clear by now that racism is an animating force of Trump's presidency, yet many of Trump's supporters and most of the Republican Party still back him after every bigoted slight and discriminatory policy he makes. They may not be willing to admit that they agree outright with everything he says or does, but their continued political support makes the distinction meaningless. Even those Republicans who do voice objections to Trump tend to treat each outburst as a discrete incident, thereby denying the obvious, deeper problem. At this stage, to not object to the president outright is to be complicit in his racist presidency.


From "The War over America's Past Is Really about Its Future," by Victor Davis Hanson in the National Review.

The context, from the author: We've seen something like this fight before, in 1861 — and it didn't end well.

The excerpt: If progressives and socialists can at last convince the American public that their country was always hopelessly flawed, they can gain power to remake it based on their own interests. These elites see Americans not as unique individuals but as race, class and gender collectives, with shared grievances from the past that must be paid out in the present and the future.

From "Far Left Prepares To Throw Barack Obama Into The Dustbin Of History," by Warren Henry in the Federalist.

The context, from the author: The wing of the Democratic Party that's fixated on race and diversity is sick of America's first black president.

The excerpt: For a crowd that thrives on accusing America of perpetuating white supremacy, progressives seem to have little fondness for America's first black president. In a campaign where progressives preach the need to energize voters of color, they seem indifferent to the preferences of black voters.

From "The Immeasurable Importance of the Good Neighbor," by Casey Chalk in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: What's more impactful than a family nearby with whom you can trust your children?

The excerpt: I'd wager (that this) is what we all want: We don't necessarily need to have neighbors who are our best friends, who we party with every weekend for barbecues and beers (though that's certainly welcome!). We need neighbors who maintain stable, respectable families who we can trust with our children and who can help us when we're in a bind. We want neighbors who we know, who return our smiles and waves, with whom we can have a friendly 10-minute conversation. This shouldn't be an especially conservative ideal, though with the many attacks that have been lodged against the traditional family and its fundamental rights, it sometimes seems that way.