1. Opinion

Selected readings from the left and from the right

Published Apr. 26, 2019

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 "Joe Biden Is Running to Be the Nominee of a Party That Has in Many Ways Left Him Behind," by Hannah Levintova in Mother Jones.

The context, from the author: For progressives in 2020, Joe Biden's political record is riddled with liabilities.

The excerpt: His decades-long record of public service has been punctuated by his ties to the banking industry, his treatment of Anita Hill, his civil rights-era opposition to busing and other actions out of sync with today's Democratic Party. Biden offers his political foes a handful of easy targets, as he joins a crowded, mostly progressive Democratic field where candidates are vying for the support of a more left-leaning Democratic electorate.

From "House Democrats' Shameful Abdication of Duty," by Alex Shephard in the New Republic.

The context, from the author: The (House Democrats') aura of complacency increasingly looks like entitlement. Democrats want to protect the advantages they believe they have heading into the general election. That's understandable, given the horrors a second-term of a Donald Trump presidency would bring. But it may also ultimately be self-defeating.

The excerpt: A Democratic majority in Congress isn't there to protect the party's political capital heading into a general election — it's there to show how Democrats will govern if elected. That means exposing corruption and holding people accountable. Four months into the new Democratic majority, however, the party has mostly opted to keep its powder dry, fearful of overplaying its hand, or deploying the political capital a midterm landslide brought them. That's good news for the president and his administration, who have spent the past week taking an unearned, "exoneration"-themed victory lap and acting, not without reason, like no one will ever really try to hold them accountable again.

From "So What If Lincoln Was Gay?" by Louis Bayard in the Paris Review.

The context, from the author: In recent years, a younger cohort of historians have begun actively grappling with the question of Abraham Lincoln's sexuality. That development is welcome, but as a novelist, I found myself caring less about individual sex acts than the deeper mystery of where Lincoln's heart lay.

The excerpt: The best place to find Lincoln's bared heart is in letters — the letters, specifically, that he wrote to Joshua Speed in 1842. Read them yourself and you will find two men who are frankly terrified by the prospect of marriage — in particular, the wedding night — and who are coaching and coaxing each other into normative heterosexual lifestyles. You will also find a tenderness rare in Lincoln's correspondence: "I do not feel my own sorrows more keenly than I do yours ... You know my desire to befriend you is everlasting — that I will never cease, while I know how to do anything." And how does he close his letters? With "Yours forever," a salutation he bestowed on no other mortal, least of all his wife.

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From "Why Biden?" by Michael Brendan Dougherty in the National Review.

The context, from the author: Joe Biden is now so aged in politics that he partially belongs to history. And of course, having been around long enough, he was frequently on the wrong side of it. At least by progressive sensibilities.

The excerpt: Joe Biden has been ahead in the early polling for a long time. But, I wonder: Why? The argument for Joe Biden's nomination seems to be the one least likely to excite Democratic voters: He's old and white, and his nomination is a decent enough accommodation to Republican political enemies who are backward looking. That is a problem because two different large cohorts of Democrats want to move forward in different ways. An upwardly mobile section of "woke" white progressives wants to triumph in the cultural arena, not accommodate. And a more socialist-influenced core wants to move on from the Clinton and Obama policies they detest as half measures.

From "I Fought In The Battle Of Mogadishu. Here's What Rep. Ilhan Omar Gets Wrong About 'Black Hawk Down,' " by Kyle Lamb in the Federalist.

The context, from the author: The simple truth is that Omar enjoys the fruits of American combat deaths, yet she can't even bring herself to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice that was made on her behalf, either as a Somali or an American.

The excerpt: I am thankful Omar and her family and countless others were able to escape to neighboring Kenya while we fought to protect those left behind (in Somalia), but I simply cannot comprehend her attitude towards those of us who fought to protect her country and countrymen from warlords who plunged Somalia only further into violence and starvation. I am glad that Omar can now enjoy the very freedoms we fought to protect, like the freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion affirmed in the U.S. Constitution, but I don't understand why she uses those freedoms to slur the men and women of the U.S. military who made her security and liberty a reality.

From "Medicare for All and the Myth of Free Markets," by Jonathan Tepper in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: Health-care monopolies are strangling competition and driving up prices. The Democrats' plan won't fix that.

The excerpt: No matter what reform the United States adopts, the choice is not between a socialized system and unbridled capitalism. Americans have the illusion that they live in a free market economy. But nothing could be further from the truth. Americans do not suffer from the monopoly of a government-run system, but the monopoly of private healthcare companies. The United States has the worst of both worlds: extensive government regulation and the monopolization of the healthcare market. What accounts for the extremes in U.S. healthcare spending? At every single turn, the U.S. healthcare system is designed to limit choice and gouge the consumer.