1. Opinion

Selected readings from the left and from the right

Published May 4, 2017

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 New Republican Health-Care Plan Is Single-Payer for Dummies" by David Dayen in the Nation at

The context: The American Health Care Act just adopted by the U.S. House is the worst answer of all, not applying any free market principles to the insurance companies offering coverage in the high-risk pools to those who need it the most.

The excerpt: By allowing health-insurance companies to discriminate based on a pre-existing condition, the GOP would break the market for this subset of people. And then they would use government funds to fix this market failure. But they would funnel it directly to health-insurance companies, rather than eliminating the middleman. This is single-payer for dummies. In a single-payer system, the government picks up the health-care costs for the population, paid for through progressive taxation. The market power of having one insurance payer can work to lower overall health care costs, making the system sustainable. In Trumpcare's single-payer for dummies, the fragmented private-insurance middleman remains intact. But taxpayer dollars still pick up the health-care costs for those who cannot afford it. Instead of acquiring market power, they just give those taxpayer dollars to the private middlemen, which tells the private middlemen they can charge whatever they want and always get paid.

From "Beyond Alt: The Extremely Reactionary, Burn-It-Down-Radical, Newfangled Far Right," a series of essays in New York Magazine at

The context: This collection of essays attempts to explain the different factions of the so-called "alt-right."

The excerpt: In some ways, it's easy to define the movement by what it doesn't care about. Not just the pieties of the left, but those of the Establishment Right as well: corporatism, taxes, cultural inclusiveness at a rhetorical level at least. Much as the tea party (a small group punching above its weight class through lunatic obstinacy and support from the Koch network) hijacked the Republican Party from inside by appealing to its sense of purity, the alt-right (a small group punching above its weight class through sheer lunatic web-savvy) swerved the party off its plotted course by an obsessive focus on some of the uglier, and often unofficial, aspects of the GOP platform that had been used for decades to appeal to the ever-poorer and less-educated base of the party.

From "No, Trumpsters, One Colbert Joke Is Not an O'Reilly Equivalent" by Dean Obeidallah in the Daily Beast at

The context: The president's loyalists — who didn't mind racist and sexist remarks, or making fun of a disabled person — want late-night host Stephen Colbert fired for a crude oral sex joke about Trump and Putin. Seriously?

The excerpt: Stephen Colbert has done it now. He has triggered an army of Donald Trump supporters outraged by one of the late night comic's jokes about their beloved leader. In fact, these Trump snowflakes are in such a tizzy over Colbert's politically incorrect joke they now want to silence Colbert by demanding he be fired. This controversy exploded late Tuesday when, in between articles demonizing immigrants and Muslims, published an article to whine about Colbert's joke that sent Trumpers looking for a safe space.

From the right

From "Republicans Abandon Conservatism" by Alexandra Desanctis in the National Review at

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The context: The Republicans may hold congressional majorities and the White House, but it sure doesn't look like conservative principles are winning.

The excerpt: Trump, who has been a Republican politician for less than two years now, has changed or openly considered changing his stance on nearly every policy issue — reversals often due to his propensity for opining on policy before he knows anything about it — and reports from Capitol Hill suggest that working with him hinders progress more than anything. ... The problem also stems from politicians' aversion to telling the public that it can't have everything it wants at no cost to it.

From "America's 'Smug-Liberal Problem' " by David French in the National Review at

The context: The only people who can't recognize that our nation has a "smug liberal" problem are smug liberals. It's hard to win converts with mockery.

The excerpt: Liberal dogma is rapidly becoming a secular religion, a "faith" that conspicuously omits any requirement that one love his enemies. Christians have long struggled to keep one of Christ's most difficult commands, but many leftists don't even try. To many, it's not even a virtue. Indeed, the same kind of vitriol is a hallmark of the post-religious Right and is part of the explanation for extreme polarization.

From "The Right Needs Better Storytellers" by Noah Rothman in Commentary at

The context: The right's flat or even hostile reaction to the heartfelt monologue by late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel about the life-saving open heart surgery performed on his newborn son — and access to affordable medical care — is a symptom of the movement's need to tell better stories or lose the argument.

The excerpt: Wonkish claptrap is difficult to relate to when the interlocutor is a new father like Kimmel, scared to death for the life of his newborn son. Human anguish is and will always be more compelling than actuarial tables, graduating deductibles and access networks. Conservative health-care reformers need to learn how to speak that language and tell better stories. Calling a crying father an "elitist creep" who should "shut" his "fat trap" is an exercise in self-indulgence. ... Republicans will either learn to tell the stories they want told, or they will lose the argument.