Selected readings from the left and from the right

Published Aug. 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 "If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef" by James Hamblin in the Atlantic at

The context, from the author: With one dietary change, the United States could almost meet greenhouse-gas emission goals.

The excerpt: A relatively small, single-food substitution could be the most powerful change a person makes in terms of their lifetime environmental impact — more so than downsizing one's car, or being vigilant about turning off light bulbs, and certainly more than quitting showering.

From "Medicare-for-All Isn't the Solution for Universal Health Care" by Joshua Holland in the Nation at

The context, from the author: The health-care debate is moving to the left. But if progressives don't start sweating the details, we're going to fail yet again.

The excerpt: There's a common perception that because single-payer systems cost so much less than ours, passing such a scheme here would bring our spending in line with what the rest of the developed world shells out. But while there would be some savings on administrative costs, this gets the causal relationship wrong. Everyone else established their systems when they weren't spending a lot on health care, and then kept prices down through aggressive cost-controls.

From "A Chilling Theory on Trump's Nonstop Lies" by Denise Clifton in Mother Jones at

The context, from the author: Trump's chronic duplicity may be pathological, as some experts have suggested. But what else might be going on here? In fact, the 45th president's stream of lies echoes a contemporary form of Russian propaganda known as the "Firehose of Falsehood."

The excerpt: (The research group) RAND notes that this propaganda strategy flies in the face of conventional wisdom that "the truth always wins." However, the researchers found, "Even when people are aware that some sources (such as political campaign rhetoric) have the potential to contain misinformation, they still show a poor ability to discriminate between information that is false and information that is correct."


From "Why the Trump Dynasty Will Last 16 Years" by Edward N. Luttwak in the Times Literary Supplement at

The context, from the author: President Donald Trump has defied all expectations by actually trying to do what he promised that he would try to do.

The excerpt: Even a developer very fond of fast food at its worst, and who enjoys boasting about his crotch-grabbing, is still a developer, who very naturally thinks in six-year blocks from site scoping to finance to design to construction and disposal, as opposed to the two-year horizon of American politics. That is why Trump registered his "Make America Great Again" slogan in 2010, six years in advance of his planned campaign, and why he is now focused not on the next mid-terms, but on the 2022 mid-terms, after his 2020 re-election, because it is only then that he can launch his daughter's candidacy, while serving his own last two years in office. In the meantime, he is securing his base.

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From "My Party Is in Denial About Donald Trump" by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., in Politico at

The context, from the author: If (supporting Trump) was our Faustian bargain, then it was not worth it. If ultimately our principles were so malleable as to no longer be principles, then what was the point of political victories in the first place?"

The excerpt: We (in Congress) observe the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively, all but saying, "Someone should do something!" without seeming to realize that that someone is us. And so, that unnerving silence in the face of an erratic executive branch is an abdication, and those in positions of leadership bear particular responsibility.

From "On Immigration, Poetry Isn't Policy, but Poetry Matters" by David French in the National Review at

The context, from the author: In the immigration debate, the Right cannot and must not cede the "kind versus cruel" narrative to the Left. Why is it inherently more compassionate to allow a low-skilled, non-English-speaking sibling of a legal immigrant to come to this country at the exact same time that our blue-collar population is struggling to attain economic stability?

The excerpt: Conservatives saw the clash (when a CNN reporter quoted Emma Lazarus' poem to a White House official laying out a new immigration plan) as facts versus feelings, the Left viewed the exchange through the prism of kind versus cruel. And therein lies the problem. In politics, kind versus cruel is a compelling narrative. And when it comes to the battle of facts versus feelings, feelings are very potent indeed. The challenge of persuasion is to marry facts with feelings, to change hearts and minds on what is kind and cruel.