Is this “right-wing hypocrisy,” or is it the right’s coherent vision for enforcing a very specific social order? What is it going to take for liberals to understand that “hypocrisy” is not a charge for which right-wing authoritarians must answer at the risk of losing clout, but a tenet of and testament to their power? It’s really not complicated: Dahm and his ilk don’t care about protecting children; they care about “protecting” certain children from certain things (like books and drag queens) that they consider threats to a white supremacist patriarchal social order. That’s it! With this understanding, what’s even the point of pretending to debate a creep like Dahm on policy particulars?
ointing out so-called right-wing hypocrisy might make the Jon Stewart-watching crowd feel superior to their political foes, but it does nothing to actually build a movement capable of overcoming them. In fact, it does worse than nothing; its smugness serves to flatter the sensibilities of its liberal viewers while obscuring the way political power is built and used in this country.
Charging a person (like Dahm) or group (like Republicans) with hypocrisy, frames the issue (protecting children, for example) as something having to do with appealing to individuals’ senses of reason or conscience and ignores the existence of social and economic systems that help maintain a status quo in which children are not only murdered in their schools and turned into cheap laborers, but are in general considered property of their parents, often to their own detriment. It’s obvious but worth saying: If such problems could be solved by merely pointing out politicians' perceived hypocrisy, they would’ve been solved by now.
Jamelle Bouie: What if We Let Majoritarian Democracy Take Root? (NY Times)
If it were up to the national majority, American democracy would most likely be in a stronger place, not the least because Donald Trump might not have become president. Our folk beliefs about American government notwithstanding, the much-vaunted guardrails and endlessly invoked norms of our political system have not secured our democracy as much as they’ve facilitated the efforts of those who would degrade and undermine it.
Majority rule is not perfect but rule by a narrow, reactionary minority — what we face in the absence of serious political reform — is far worse. And much of our fear of majorities, the legacy of a founding generation that sought to restrain the power of ordinary people, is unfounded. It is not just that rule of the majority is, as Abraham Lincoln said, “the only true sovereign of a free people”; it is also the only sovereign that has reliably worked to protect those people from the deprivations of hierarchy and exploitation.
If majoritarian democracy, even at its most shackled, is a better safeguard against tyranny and abuse than our minoritarian institutions, then imagine how we might fare if we let majoritarian democracy actually take root in this country. The liberty of would-be masters might suffer. The liberty of ordinary people, on the other hand, might flourish.
David Bentley Hart: Three Cheers for Socialism (Commonweal Magazine)
In the late modern world something like socialism is the only possible way of embodying Christian love in concrete political practices.
Americans are, of course, the most thoroughly and passively indoctrinated people on earth. They know next to nothing as a rule about their own history, or the histories of other nations, or the histories of the various social movements that have risen and fallen in the past, and they certainly know little or nothing of the complexities and contradictions comprised within words like “socialism” and “capitalism.” Chiefly, what they have been trained not to know or even suspect is that, in many ways, they enjoy far fewer freedoms, and suffer under a more intrusive centralized state, than do the citizens of countries with more vigorous social-democratic institutions. This is at once the most comic and most tragic aspect of the excitable alarm that talk of social democracy or democratic socialism can elicit on these shores. An enormous number of Americans have been persuaded to believe that they are freer in the abstract than, say, Germans or Danes precisely because they possess far fewer freedoms in the concrete. They are far more vulnerable to medical and financial crisis, far more likely to receive inadequate health coverage, far more prone to irreparable insolvency, far more unprotected against predatory creditors, far more subject to income inequality, and so forth, while effectively paying more in tax (when one figures in federal, state, local, and sales taxes, and then compounds those by all the expenditures that in this country, as almost nowhere else, their taxes do not cover). One might think that a people who once rebelled against the mightiest empire on earth on the principle of no taxation without representation would not meekly accept taxation without adequate government services. But we accept what we have become used to, I suppose. Even so, one has to ask, what state apparatus in the “free” world could be more powerful and tyrannical than the one that taxes its citizens while providing no substantial civic benefits in return, solely in order to enrich a piratically overinflated military-industrial complex and to ease the tax burdens of the immensely wealthy?
…where health care in particular is concerned, Americans are slaves thrice-bound: wholly at the mercy of a government that despoils them for the sake of the rich, as well as of employers from whom they will receive only such benefits as the law absolutely requires, as well as of insurance companies that can rob them of the care for which they have paid.
States depend upon capital for revenues, material goods, and political patronage. Without the support of an omnicompetent, vastly prosperous, orderly, and violent state, global corporate capitalism could not thrive. Without corporations, the modern state would lack the resources necessary to perpetuate its supremacy over every sphere of life.
Rusty Foster: What Are You Willing to Do? (Today in Tabs)
The truth is, I don’t know what to do. I hugged my own third grader goodbye this morning and sent her off to school. The middle school she’ll attend in three years is remote today because they discovered “threats” in a bathroom. We live in a country where statistically, until age 19, she is most likely to die of a gunshot wound. So what am I willing to do? Anything.
Devin Oktar Yalkin: How Ellen won, and then lost, a generation of viewers (LA Times)
Ellen DeGeneres did not “betray” queer people. Such a claim presumes that she owes us, or speaks for us, and that impossible burden — one she has faced since she came out on “Ellen” — is part of what landed her in this mess in the first place. Still, I cannot help but feel exasperation at her defensive crouch when she’s questioned about Bush, or Hart, or her responsibility for the toxic work environment on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” I cannot help but roll my eyes at the self-pitying strain that runs through “Relatable,” her scrupulously unilluminating 2018 Netflix stand-up special, in which she professes, or performs, frustration at the indignities of the celebrity stratosphere.
As in her interview with Hart, her segment on Bush, her farewell announcements on “Today” and with Oprah, the Dakota Johnson moment inadvertently expressed a central feature of modern American life, and of DeGeneres’ own post-aughts crises: that the very rich and the very famous, the odd Dolly Parton excepted, are in solidarity mostly with themselves.
For DeGeneres, who built her career on playing versions of “Ellen,” by appearing, as a queer woman in a patriarchal society, not only “normal” but ordinary, this evolution couldn’t help but hold symbolic resonance. Because “progress” is not an achievement but an action, and to let up the fight is already to lose it. From “Don’t Say Gay”-style legislation in the U.S. and the prevalence of transphobia in U.K. media to the deadly threat to queers in Russia and its occupied territories, LGBTQ people are engaged in a tug of war on a tectonic scale, struggling ceaselessly just to keep our footing.
It does not seem so outrageous to me, in this context, to expect the most prominent LGBTQ American to pull in the same direction, or at least to accept that the price of holding the vanishing center is becoming a little less beloved.
It’s not as if DeGeneres has been driven into hiding. She simply forfeited her position as the queer celebrity everyone — me, my mother, George W. Bush — could agree on, because in a time and place of such terrifying revanchism, it is not enough to be agreeable. For those of us frightened by the change she once represented being so swiftly rolled back, DeGeneres’ fumbling attempt to keep her distance turns out to be the one choice we couldn’t forgive, and will not forget.
When we lost Ellen, she lost us.
Kate Wagner: Don’t Let People Enjoy Things (The Baffler)
An issue common to all of our LPET posters is that they think criticism means forbidding people from enjoying media in general. First of all, people are just as allowed to *dislike* things as they are permitted to enjoy them—you can’t trick them into changing their minds with your authoritarian meme posting. Second, I introduce this radical idea: you can still enjoy things while being critical of them—it can even lead to a greater appreciation of societal and historical context, and it can make you usefully wary of the role the shit forces of the world play in the media we consume. It can also help us maintain our political and social integrity while watching or reading or listening to whatever is offered to us. For example, my peacenik, anticapitalist proclivities may make me critical of many mainstream blockbusters, but they also afford me a greater appreciation of movies like ‘Office Space’ and Dolly Parton’s classic ‘9 to 5.’ Finally, though our LPET posters think otherwise, it is indeed possible to *like some things about a piece of media and dislike things about that same piece of media all at once*.
Jeff Desjardins: Mapped: Visualizing the True Size of Africa (Visual Capitalist)
The reason for this is that the familiar Mercator map projection tends to distort our geographical view of the world in a crucial way — one that often leads to misconceptions about the relative sizes of both countries and continents.
The African continent has a land area of 30.37 million sq km (11.7 million sq mi) — enough to fit in the U.S., China, India, Japan, Mexico, and many European nations, combined.
Here’s the thing: we need politics in the workplace. Politics—that is, the act of negotiating our relationships and obligations to each other—is critical to the work of building and sustaining democracy. And the workplace isn’t separate from democracy—it is democracy. It is as much a part of the democratic system as a neighborhood association or a town council, as a library or youth center or food bank. By the very nature of the outsized role that work plays in our lives, it’s where most of us have the potential to make the biggest impact on how we—and our families and communities—live. Workers across industries have organized to secure a legal minimum wage, won laws against unpaid overtime, established workplace safety guidelines, improved patient care standards at hospitals, kept school classrooms to a manageable size, ended private collaboration with the military and border control, worked to pass laws condemning gender and racial discrimination, and the list goes on. They’ve done this not only within their own workplaces, but for all of us.
Comment by Frank Wilhoit on a blog post titled ‘The travesty of liberalism’ on a blog called Crooked Timber
A very good comment about the scourge of conservatism by Frank Wilhoit on a blog post about conservatism/liberalism/socialism/leftism/etc.
The big take-home point, for me:
Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.
And the suggestion that:
The law cannot protect anyone unless it binds everyone; and it cannot bind anyone unless it protects everyone.
Wilhoit's comment in full:
Frank Wilhoit (03.22.18 at 12:09 am)
There is no such thing as liberalism — or progressivism, etc.
There is only conservatism. No other political philosophy actually exists; by the political analogue of Gresham’s Law, conservatism has driven every other idea out of circulation.
There might be, and should be, anti-conservatism; but it does not yet exist. What would it be? In order to answer that question, it is necessary and sufficient to characterize conservatism. Fortunately, this can be done very concisely.
Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit:
There must be in-groups whom the law protectes but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.
There is nothing more or else to it, and there never has been, in any place or time.
For millenia, conservatism had no name, because no other model of polity had ever been proposed. “The king can do no wrong.” In practice, this immunity was always extended to the king’s friends, however fungible a group they might have been. Today, we still have the king’s friends even where there is no king (dictator, etc.). Another way to look at this is that the king is a faction, rather than an individual.
As the core proposition of conservatism is indefensible if stated baldly, it has always been surrounded by an elaborate backwash of pseudophilosophy, amounting over time to millions of pages. All such is axiomatically dishonest and undeserving of serious scrutiny. Today, the accelerating de-education of humanity has reached a point where the market for pseudophilosophy is vanishing; it is, as The Kids Say These Days, tl;dr . All that is left is the core proposition itself — backed up, no longer by misdirection and sophistry, but by violence.
So this tells us what anti-conservatism must be: the proposition that the law cannot protect anyone unless it binds everyone, and cannot bind anyone unless it protects everyone.
Then the appearance arises that the task is to map “liberalism”, or “progressivism”, or “socialism”, or whateverthefuckkindofstupidnoise-ism, onto the core proposition of anti-conservatism.
No, it a’n’t. The task is to throw all those things on the exact same burn pile as the collected works of all the apologists for conservatism, and start fresh. The core proposition of anti-conservatism requires no supplementation and no exegesis. It is as sufficient as it is necessary. What you see is what you get:
The law cannot protect anyone unless it binds everyone; and it cannot bind anyone unless it protects everyone.
This text is sometimes misattributed to Francis Wilhoit, a political scientist who died eight years before this comment was written. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_M._Wilhoit#Mis-appropriated_Quotation_on_Conservatism and https://nomoremister.blogspot.com/2020/08/post-trump-conservatism-marxist.html#comment-5022522677.)
Something About The Way Society Was Exposed As Complete Illusion Over Past Year Really Getting Man Down Today (The Onion)
VANCOUVER, WA—Unable to shake off an overall negative feeling he couldn’t attribute to anything in particular, local man Paul Carpenter confirmed Monday that something about the way society was exposed as a complete illusion over the past year was really getting him down today. “Maybe it’s just quarantine talking, but the reality dawning on me that American life is a fundamentally hollow cesspool of spectacle and misery is really bumming me out lately,” said Carpenter, adding that he had the vague idea that living in a social system based on brutal competition that made all human relationships transactional and perverted the very idea of community might have something to do with it. “I can’t put my finger on it, but maybe I’m just really tired of the coronavirus pandemic, which wasn’t mishandled as some people say but in fact shown to be rationally handled by a group of insulated wealthy individuals who can pursue their greedy desires with the full knowledge that a vast percentage of Americans are economically superfluous and thus willing to fight among themselves for scraps? On the other hand, though, maybe it’s the stress of a news cycle in which people from both political parties are invested in a series of increasingly baroque conspiracy theories guided by the grotesque and increasingly obvious lies we tell ourselves about American exceptionalism that’s making me feel kind of sad. There’s just this nagging feeling I have that it became very clear over the past 12 months that the basic building blocks of society are crumbling and there is absolutely no plan for changing anything at any level to avoid plunging the vast majority of humanity into cycles of ever-worsening suffering and violence. Maybe it’s just that being fundamentally powerless and living among other similarly disenfranchised, surveilled, and downtrodden people have made me feel completely alienated from any kind of community at all, or maybe I just need to get more sleep.” Carpenter added that he did plan to address the way he’d been feeling lately, perhaps by tuning out of the news and letting other people who weren’t ever even afforded the option to believe in the illusions of American society figure out what to do, or by trying to exercise more.
Tom Scocca: Trump acquitted: The mob is still occupying the Capitol. (Slate)
So led by Mitch McConnell—who said afterward that Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the attack—the Republicans chose to pretend that they had no power to do anything. Rubio, who’d called the violence around Trump rallies “frightening, grotesque, and disturbing” during the 2016 primary campaign, cast the 34th vote to acquit, sealing the result. In regretful tones, when it was over, McConnell repeated the same message he’d issued in a statement in the morning, preempting the closing arguments, that he read the constitution to mean that impeachment could only apply to current officeholders.
Apparently if the coup had succeeded, and Trump had held onto office through mob violence, then he could have been impeached for it. But since the attempt failed, there was no way to stop him from trying it in the future, if he runs in the future.
Yet again—one more time, if not one last time—the Trump presidency had demonstrated that the United States Constitution is a failure. Its fundamental mechanisms do not work. A president may not be investigated, if he refuses a congressional subpoena. A president may take bribes and misappropriate funds, if he does it all in the open. Five dead bodies and a Congress put to flight are not enough to convict and disqualify a president from seeking power again, if that president’s party wants to protect him.
Lyz Lenz: Trump Is Gone, But the Era of White Grievance Isn’t Over
The great white whine continues
It’s tempting to say, “We made it.” But so many have not. 400,000 Americans are dead from a virus that is preventable with a face mask. A little cloth covering. 545 children have lost their families because of the Trump administration’s family separation policy that forced them apart. Heather Heyer isn’t here. Five people died in the violent insurrection. So many of us are alive, yes, but we are ghosts of ourselves. Hollowed out by loss and harassment and illness. How many more people were terrorized and are dead because white nationalism was catalyzed by the highest office in the land?
So, no. We didn’t make it. And it’s not over.
White grievance is one of the few renewable natural resources that Americans are willing to invest in. And why not? It’s good business. Fox News has made an empire of it. Look at all the journalists who have made a lot of money writing books about Donald Trump. Think about all the people who have made money writing about their time in the White House.
We are a country and an economy built on white grievance. Even after slavery as a practice was ended in 1865, it’s never really gone away. Segregationist policies and politicians, Jim Crow laws, redlining practices and suburban white flight have set the boundaries and borders of our country. During the 2016 election, writers like Dave Eggers and George Saunders bent over backward to describe the anger and pain of the white voter, going to Trump rallies and writing about the slavering hordes in a way that othered and fetishized them. This narrative allowed white grievance to flourish; after a takedown in the “liberal media”, white voters could crucify themselves on the cross of culture, claiming to be the victims and misunderstood, the poor forgotten minority.
Ta-Nehisi Coates: Donald Trump Is Out. Are We Ready to Talk About How He Got In? (The Atlantic)
It was said that the Trump presidency was the fruit of “economic anxiety,” of trigger warnings and the push for trans rights. We were told that it was wrong to call Trump a white supremacist, because he had merely “drawn upon their themes.”
One hopes that after four years of brown children in cages; of attempts to invalidate the will of Black voters in Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Detroit; of hearing Trump tell congresswomen of color to go back where they came from; of claims that Joe Biden would turn Minnesota into “a refugee camp”; of his constant invocations of “the Chinese virus,” we can now safely conclude that Trump believes in a world where white people are—or should be—on top. It is still deeply challenging for so many people to accept the reality of what has happened—that a country has been captured by the worst of its history, while millions of Americans cheered this on.
Stop asking sane people to lovingly accept those who cheered on a man who has done grave and permanent damage to this world. It’s outrageous that half the country should be asked to exhibit mercy while the other half is permitted to wallow in its criminality and ignorance.
Americans have a sliver of a chance to demonstrate that there is some conscience left among us by requiring those who did harm to apologize, and if they do not, to be denied any further role in public life. And obviously, it’s incredible that this needs to be said, but those who are guilty of crimes must be prosecuted (just for a change!) The absence of accountability means condoning wrongdoing, as a glance at cable TV news, with its parade of war criminal guests, can show you.
Demanding accountability is what being ‘reasonable’ requires of us. Being ‘empathetic’ means empathy for those who’ve been harmed, before we begin even to think of empathizing with those who’ve done harm. It’s an insult to every family broken by ICE, an insult to George Floyd, to ask that Trump voters be forgiven in the absence of a total and credible apology from them, and a repudiation of all the wrong they’ve done.
Jamelle Bouie: Don’t Fool Yourself. Trump Is Not an Aberration. (NYT)
Many of the worst things the president has said and done were said and done by his predecessors.
For as much as it seems that Donald Trump has changed something about the character of this country, the truth is he hasn’t. What is terrible about Trump is also terrible about the United States. Everything we’ve seen in the last four years — the nativism, the racism, the corruption, the wanton exploitation of the weak and unconcealed contempt for the vulnerable — is as much a part of the American story as our highest ideals and aspirations. The line to Trump runs through the whole of American history, from the white man’s democracy of Andrew Jackson to the populist racism of George Wallace, from native expropriation to Chinese exclusion.
And to the extent that Americans feel a sense of loss about the Trump era, they should be grateful, because it means they’ve given up their illusions about what this country is, and what it is (and has been) capable of.
There is very little about Donald Trump or his policies that doesn’t have a direct antecedent in the American past. Despite what Joe Biden might say about its supposedly singular nature (“The way he deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they’re from, is absolutely sickening”), the president’s racism harkens right back to the first decades of the 20th century, when white supremacy was ascendant and the nation’s political elites, including presidents like Woodrow Wilson, were preoccupied with segregation and exclusion for the sake of preserving an “Anglo-Saxon” nation.
Since the events in Charlottesville on August 11-12, 2017, a number of far-right fascists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis have caught charges for violent crimes. These crimes range from misdemeanors to serious felonies, from state charges to federal charges, and possible penalties can include life in prison or even death.
Tracking these cases has given anti-fascist and anti-extremist researchers a wealth of information regarding the organizing methods, networks, and objectives of these groups. Tracking all of these cases, however, can be hard. So here is a resource that should hopefully compile that information for future work. Fascists are never on the side of truth, so sunlight can be a powerful tool to disrupt their organizing. It is with high hopes that this information is used to save lives. This is not an endorsement of the police, of state violence, or of state intervention. This is simply a repository of the most accurate possible information, culled from public records, newspapers, and court hearings.
Irena Sendler was without doubt a very courageous woman who repeatedly risked her own life to save hundreds of Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto during the German occupation of Poland in World War 2 - and there is certainly nothing wrong with commemorating her heroism.
However, what should immediately be obvious about this particular "tribute" is that it contains a lot of information about Sendler that is completely wrong. It also turns into an agenda-driven attack on Al Gore and Barack Obama, as well as questioning the credibility of the Nobel Peace Prize (early versions of the chain letter only mentioned Gore, but Obama was thrown into the mix after he became US President).
Joseph Bernstein: Andy Ngo Has the Newest New Media Career. It's Made Him a Victim and a Star. (Buzzfeed)
I think Andy Ngo’s work is designed to confirm some truly ugly American instincts: that something inherent in Islam makes Muslims unassimilable, that minority groups using their status cynically is as big a problem as discrimination against them, and that a tiny pocket of the American left poses as great a threat to the freedom of Americans as a federal government careening toward permanent minority rule. I think his methods are unsafe, inimical to good journalism, and border on propagandistic. But he’s not a grifter.
Calling him a grifter is a way of saying that no one clever and dedicated enough to do what he’s done might actually have the politics he does. That’s a comforting thought for some, I’m sure. I’m not even sure Ngo is a troll, except to the extent that literally the entire conservative media machine, from social media to nighttime news, is a troll on liberals. I think he’s ambitious and savvy, and he wanted to break into a right-wing media world that speaks to an enormous national audience that shares parts of his worldview.
And what’s the best way to do that? What is the national story that has given a whole generation of journalists, myself included, across every stratum of media, a platform? The never-ending American culture war, online and offline, that sometimes breaks out into violence. There’s not a lot of news in what Ngo does. It’s not man bites dog that antifa is violent or that some hate crimes are made up or that college students say dumb things. But there is a demand, a big one, to showcase leftists and minorities as villains. How many freelance videographers nursing well whiskeys in the dive bars of Brooklyn would trade a few punches from a Proud Boy for a job at Vice? The media is shrinking, and to squeeze oneself in needs a leg up: a connection, an uncommon aptitude, or the willingness to do things other people simply aren’t.
George Packer: We Are Living in a Failed State (The Atlantic)
The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken.
When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.
The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational, and collective. The United States reacted instead like Pakistan or Belarus—like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering. The administration squandered two irretrievable months to prepare. From the president came willful blindness, scapegoating, boasts, and lies. From his mouthpieces, conspiracy theories and miracle cures. A few senators and corporate executives acted quickly—not to prevent the coming disaster, but to profit from it. When a government doctor tried to warn the public of the danger, the White House took the mic and politicized the message.
Every morning in the endless month of March, Americans woke up to find themselves citizens of a failed state. With no national plan—no coherent instructions at all—families, schools, and offices were left to decide on their own whether to shut down and take shelter. When test kits, masks, gowns, and ventilators were found to be in desperately short supply, governors pleaded for them from the White House, which stalled, then called on private enterprise, which couldn’t deliver. States and cities were forced into bidding wars that left them prey to price gouging and corporate profiteering. Civilians took out their sewing machines to try to keep ill-equipped hospital workers healthy and their patients alive. Russia, Taiwan, and the United Nations sent humanitarian aid to the world’s richest power—a beggar nation in utter chaos.
The long recovery over the past decade enriched corporations and investors, lulled professionals, and left the working class further behind. The lasting effect of the slump was to increase polarization and to discredit authority, especially government’s.
Trump acquired a federal government crippled by years of right-wing ideological assault, politicization by both parties, and steady defunding. He set about finishing off the job and destroying the professional civil service. He drove out some of the most talented and experienced career officials, left essential positions unfilled, and installed loyalists as commissars over the cowed survivors, with one purpose: to serve his own interests. His major legislative accomplishment, one of the largest tax cuts in history, sent hundreds of billions of dollars to corporations and the rich. The beneficiaries flocked to patronize his resorts and line his reelection pockets. If lying was his means for using power, corruption was his end.
Read: It pays to be rich during a pandemic
This was the American landscape that lay open to the virus: in prosperous cities, a class of globally connected desk workers dependent on a class of precarious and invisible service workers; in the countryside, decaying communities in revolt against the modern world; on social media, mutual hatred and endless vituperation among different camps; in the economy, even with full employment, a large and growing gap between triumphant capital and beleaguered labor; in Washington, an empty government led by a con man and his intellectually bankrupt party; around the country, a mood of cynical exhaustion, with no vision of a shared identity or future.
It turns out that “nimble” companies can’t prepare for a catastrophe or distribute lifesaving goods—only a competent federal government can do that. It turns out that everything has a cost, and years of attacking government, squeezing it dry and draining its morale, inflict a heavy cost that the public has to pay in lives. All the programs defunded, stockpiles depleted, and plans scrapped meant that we had become a second-rate nation. Then came the virus and this strange defeat.
The fight to overcome the pandemic must also be a fight to recover the health of our country, and build it anew, or the hardship and grief we’re now enduring will never be redeemed. Under our current leadership, nothing will change. If 9/11 and 2008 wore out trust in the old political establishment, 2020 should kill off the idea that anti-politics is our salvation. But putting an end to this regime, so necessary and deserved, is only the beginning.
We’re faced with a choice that the crisis makes inescapably clear. We can stay hunkered down in self-isolation, fearing and shunning one another, letting our common bond wear away to nothing. Or we can use this pause in our normal lives to pay attention to the hospital workers holding up cellphones so their patients can say goodbye to loved ones; the planeload of medical workers flying from Atlanta to help in New York; the aerospace workers in Massachusetts demanding that their factory be converted to ventilator production; the Floridians standing in long lines because they couldn’t get through by phone to the skeletal unemployment office; the residents of Milwaukee braving endless waits, hail, and contagion to vote in an election forced on them by partisan justices. We can learn from these dreadful days that stupidity and injustice are lethal; that, in a democracy, being a citizen is essential work; that the alternative to solidarity is death. After we’ve come out of hiding and taken off our masks, we should not forget what it was like to be alone.
Zeynep Tufekci: The WHO Shouldn’t Be a Plaything for Great Powers (The Atlantic)
Trump’s defunding ploy will only make the organization’s problems worse.
Fixing the WHO is crucial, because we desperately need well-functioning global health institutions. But that requires a correct diagnosis of the problem. There is an alternate timeline in which the leadership of the WHO did its job fully and properly, warning the world in time so that effective policies could be deployed across the planet. Instead, the WHO decided to stick disturbingly close to China’s official positions, including its transparent cover-ups. In place of a pandemic that is bringing global destruction, just maybe we could have had a few tragic local outbreaks that were contained.
Taiwan and Hong Kong succeeded because they ignored, contradicted, and defied the official position and the advice of the WHO on many significant issues. This is not a coincidence, but a damning indictment of the WHO’s leadership.
Imagine the WHO took notice of the information it received from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Imagine the WHO also recognized that whistleblower doctors in Wuhan were being threatened with jail time. It would have realized that something important was happening, something worth investigating. It could have immediately, but politely, demanded access to the region around Wuhan and its hospitals.
When independent access to Wuhan was denied, instead of simply relaying what China claimed as if it were factual, the WHO could have notified the world that an alarming situation was unfolding. It could have said that China was not allowing independent investigations, and that there were suggestions of human-to-human transmission that needed urgent investigation. That would have gotten the world’s attention.
Researchers estimate that acting even a week or two early might have reduced cases by 50 to 80 percent. With proper global leadership, we may have had a very different trajectory.
Unfortunately, the WHO seems to remember its principles only when they align with China’s interests. For example, the WHO correctly opposes calling SARS-CoV-2 the “Chinese virus,” as the U.S. administration has tried to do, in another of its attempts to shift the conversation away from its own failings and onto the familiar turf of culture wars. But when China goes on a brazen global misinformation spree, making outrageously false claims about SARS-CoV-2 being a CIA operation or calling it a “U.S.A. virus,” the WHO is silent.
Defunding the WHO is not just foolish. It is dangerous: A pandemic needs to be contained globally, including in the poor countries that depend on the WHO. The WHO is the only global organization whose mission, reach, and infrastructure are suitable for this. The U.S. funds about 15 percent of the WHO’s current budget, and the already stretched-thin organization may not be able to quickly make that up.
We must save the WHO, but not by reflexively pretending that nothing’s wrong with it, just because President Trump is going after the organization. We should be realistic and honest about the corruption and shortcomings that have engulfed the leadership of an organization that is deeply flawed, but that is still the jewel of the international health community. The WHO employs thousands of dedicated and selfless health-care workers in 194 countries, and even now it is leading the fight globally against polio and Ebola. It needs to be restructured, and the first order of business is to make sure that it’s led by health professionals who are given the latitude to be independent and the means to resist bullying and pressure, and who demonstrate spine and an unfailing commitment to the Hippocratic oath when they count most.
Jamelle Bouie: Trump and His Allies Are Worried About More Than November (NYT)
The temporary imposition of popular relief programs in response to the coronavirus makes Republicans nervous.
In one short month, the United States has made a significant leap toward a kind of emergency social democracy, in recognition of the fact that no individual or community could possibly be prepared for the devastation wrought by the pandemic. Should the health and economic crisis extend through the year, there’s a strong chance that Americans will move even further down that road, as businesses shutter, unemployment continues to mount and the federal government is the only entity that can keep the entire economy afloat.
But this logic — that ordinary people need security in the face of social and economic volatility — is as true in normal times as it is under crisis. If something like a social democratic state is feasible under these conditions, then it is absolutely possible when growth is high and unemployment is low. And in the wake of two political campaigns — Bernie Sanders’s and Elizabeth Warren’s — that pushed progressive ideas into the mainstream of American politics, voters might begin to see this essential truth.
If the electoral danger for the Republican Party is that voters will blame the president for high unemployment and mass death — a reasonable fear, given how Trump loudly denied the threat in the face of warnings from inside and outside his administration — then the ideological danger is that it undermines the ideological project that captured the state with President Ronald Reagan and is on the path to victory under Donald Trump.
After years of single-minded devotion, the conservative movement is achingly close to dismantling the New Deal political order and turning the clock back to when capital could act without limits or restraints.
Jessica Valenti: I Can’t Believe I Have to Vote for Joe Biden (Gen)
Democratic women are once again being asked to help save the country by voting for the deeply problematic former vice president.
Biden is the better choice by a mile, and I’ll do what’s right for the country and vote for him. But I’m still furious: I can’t believe that when faced with the most dangerous president of our lifetime, Democrats are moving ahead with a nearly 80-year-old moderate who has shown himself time and again not up for the fight. I am livid that Democratic women will be called on, once again, to cast our vote in the name of reducing harm to the country rather than moving it forward.
And the truth is that this election is going to be terrible for women, no matter what we do. Feminists have long warned about Biden’s treatment of Anita Hill (along with his decades-late non-apology), his nastiness toward women he doesn’t find sufficiently deferential and sweet, and the former vice president’s trademark handsiness — but we’re still going to see these new allegations weaponized against us should we vote for him.
(Pro tip: If the only time you have spoken out against our country’s culture of sexual violence is to play some sort of perverse “gotcha” game with Democratic women, you do not actually care about this issue.)
So like a lot of American women, if I pop any corks on election night, it won’t be because Joe Biden won — but because Donald Trump lost. I can live with that. But I won’t forget that Democrats put American women in this position. And I won’t ever forgive it.
Drew Magary: Where the Hell Is Barack Obama? (Gen)
The influence that Barack Obama has left on the table during the coronavirus pandemic and economic apocalypse has been staggering, frustrating, and inexplicable.
Obama can do far more than tweet, and he hasn’t. This is by design. While our collective house burns to the ground, Obama has chosen to pull a Phil Jackson: eschewing a timeout and remaining firmly on the bench, trusting us to figure it all out for ourselves. Up until his imminent endorsement of Joe Biden, which itself is not a terribly productive action, he deliberately made a point of not getting in the way, which is delightful because Democrats still working in government have taken his lead and ALSO decided to not get in the way of Republicans, nor of our impending doom. The influence that Obama has left on the table has been so staggering as to be obscene. What’s even worse is that his void has been filled by a bunch of his former operatives who have used the Obama brand name to burnish their own halos while they do and say patently awful shit.
I’m sick of Barack Obama staying above the fray while that fray is swallowing us whole. It’s infuriating. My anger at Trump is a given, but I hold a special anger in my heart for Democrats who were meant to supply vehement opposition but have instead given us nothing but a handful of wet shit. If Obama had any real plan to use his lingering popularity constructively, he would have used it by now. Instead, he insists he cannot be a white knight, and we have to sort this all out on our own. I’m sure every Republican he ever caved to is nodding in vigorous approval at the notion.
It would be nice, for a change, if Barack Obama could emerge from his cave and offer — no wait, DEMAND — a way forward. It would be nice if he went Full Chicago and fucking fought for answers. But he hasn’t, and he won’t. THIS is what his legacy should be now. In office, Obama did very little to significantly alter a status quo designed to protect itself. Now, out of power but certainly not out of political capital, our brightest star remains in the shadows. Meanwhile, the current president would like virus death to become an accepted and perpetual fact of life here so that his favorite teevee show — AMERICA: IT’S GREAT!— can return from hiatus.
Know who else is comfortable right now? Barack Obama. The man is all hope and no change. And the longer he refuses to take any public action, the more I’ll remember him as a man who said all the right things while, in his cherished long run, not having much to show for it. Wake the fuck up, Mr. President. The arc of the moral universe is no longer long. It is terrifyingly short, and guess which way it’s bending?
Media-bashing robocalls, chloroquine Twitter trolls, briefing-room propaganda—how the president and his allies are trying to convince America he was right all along.
As reality continues to assert itself in the coming months—whether in the form of rising death tolls, or clinical drug trials, or shifting White House policy—Trump’s information warriors will likely retreat from some of their current positions. (They may also notch a few “wins” as the facts catch up to their narratives.) In the meantime, they are staying cautiously on message.
Peter C Baker: ‘We can’t go back to normal’: how will coronavirus change the world? (The Guardian)
The long read: Times of upheaval are always times of radical change. Some believe the pandemic is a once-in-a-generation chance to remake society and build a better future. Others fear it may only make existing injustices worse.
It’s not just the size and speed of what is happening that’s dizzying. It’s the fact that we have grown accustomed to hearing that democracies are incapable of making big moves like this quickly, or at all. But here we are. Any glance at history reveals that crises and disasters have continually set the stage for change, often for the better.
The argument, in its simplest form, is this: Covid-19 has revealed the political status quo to be broken. Long before anyone had heard of the new coronavirus, people died of diseases we knew how to prevent and treat. People lived precarious lives in societies awash with wealth. Experts told us about catastrophic threats on the horizon, including pandemics, and we did next to nothing to prepare for them. At the same time, the drastic measures governments have taken in recent weeks testify to just how much power the state does have – the extent of what government can accomplish (and quickly!) when it realises it must act boldly or risk being seen as fundamentally illegitimate. As Pankaj Mishra recently wrote: “It has taken a disaster for the state to assume its original responsibility to protect citizens.”
For years, in mainstream politics the conventional line – on everything from healthcare to basic living expenses such as housing – has been that even if the world has its problems, expansive government intervention is not a feasible solution. Instead, we have been told that what works best are “marketplace” solutions, which give large roles to corporations motivated not by outdated notions like “the public good” but by a desire to make a profit. But then the virus started spreading, governments spent trillions in days – even going so far as to write cheques directly to citizens – and suddenly the question of what was feasible felt different.
From this perspective, the task today is not to fight the virus in order to return to business as usual, because business as usual was already a disaster. The goal, instead, is to fight the virus – and in doing so transform business as usual into something more humane and secure.
For anyone making this argument, the contrast between 2008 and the present crisis is striking. Compared to the opaque financial crisis, with its credit default swaps and collateralised debt obligations, the coronavirus is relatively easy to understand. It is a dozen crises tangled into one, and they’re all unfolding immediately, in ways that cannot be missed. Politicians are getting infected. Wealthy celebrities are getting infected. Your friends and relatives are getting infected. We may not quite all be “in it together” – as always, the poor are hit worse – but there is more truth to the idea than there ever was in the wake of 2008.
In this, the optimists believe, there is hope that we might begin to see the world differently. Maybe we can view our problems as shared, and society as more than just a mass of individuals competing against each other for wealth and standing. Maybe, in short, we can understand that the logic of the market should not dominate as many spheres of human existence as we currently allow it to.
Although Covid-19 is likely the biggest global crisis since the second world war, it is still dwarfed in the long term by climate change. Yet the two problems have suggestive similarities. Both will require unusual levels of global cooperation. Both demand changes in behaviour today in the name of reducing suffering tomorrow. Both problems were long predicted with great certainty by scientists, and have been neglected by governments unable to see beyond the next fiscal quarter’s growth statistics. Accordingly, both will require governments to take drastic action and banish the logic of the marketplace from certain realms of human activity, while simultaneously embracing public investment. In other words, to think of this new level of state intervention as a temporary requirement is to ensure that we continue barrelling down the path to climate disaster.
The world feels awfully strange right now, but not because – or not just because – it is changing so fast and any one of us could fall ill at any time, or could already be carrying the virus and not know it. It feels strange because the past few weeks have exposed the fact that the biggest things can always change, at any minute. This simple truth, both destabilising and liberating, is easy to forget. We’re not watching a movie: we’re writing one, together, until the end.
Astra Taylor: Bernie Sanders’ Exit Is an Indictment of Our Broken System—Not His Campaign (In These Times)
Voter suppression was stronger than Bernie Sanders' voter turnout plan. And the pandemic has made things worse.
Sanders’ campaign was remarkable, in part, because he was trying to do two things at once: win the Democratic nomination and strengthen social movements. Leftists have long talked about inside and outside strategies as though they were in opposition, but the Sanders campaign made the argument that they can and must be united, difficult though this process may be. The energy and radicalism of the streets needs to be brought to bear on electoral politics and into the halls of power. That remains the needle the Left has to thread.
This election cycle needs to push leftists to engage in voting issues and push the conversation beyond standard liberal talking points like voting-by-mail, automatic voter registration and an end to gerrymandering. We need to talk about safe and secure online voting, turning election day into election month, and more systemic reforms including ranked choice voting, making voting mandatory (as it is in many other developed countries) and experimenting with the use of sortition (random selection of political officials) and citizens’ assemblies.
Find a local Sunrise hub. Start or support a rent strike in your city. Sign up for the ongoing student debt strike. Log on to a local Indivisible meeting. Start paying dues to the Democratic Socialists of America or the Debt Collective. Run for office. As the brilliant labor organizer Jane McAlevey always says, there are no shortcuts to building power for regular people. This is nitty gritty work that has to be done relationship by relationship, day by day.
How one Swedish teenager armed with a homemade sign ignited a crusade and became the leader of a movement.
Thunberg’s face was controlled fury. This was the persona: an adolescent iron-willed truth teller. The Davos one-percenters clapped and rattled their Rolexes. It has become a disconcerting pattern for Thunberg appearances that would be repeated at the European Commission: Greta tells the adults they are fools and their plans are lame and shortsighted. They still give her a standing ovation. A few minutes later, she was gone and the audience dispersed into a fleet of black BMWs and Mercedes, belching diesel into the Alpine sky.
The irony of the Greta Age is that we now have options, but refuse to take them. Clean-energy technology has evolved to a point where old arguments that fossil fuels remain the cheapest way to create energy are now obviously nonsense. The cost of clean energy is no longer a barrier to change. Over the past decade, it became an obvious truth: Burning fossil fuels no longer made economic sense anywhere, anytime. What remains is the power and influence of the energy conglomerate superpowers to maintain the status quo. No politician has the courage to face them down. By 2018, it became even clearer that politicians could not be trusted. Talk was wasted. Companies would continue to put profits before nature. We were on our own.
And that’s when Greta came along.
“I’m very weak in a sense,” says Thunberg quietly. “I’m very tiny and I am very emotional, and that is not something people usually associate with strength. I think weakness, in a way, can be also needed because we don’t have to be the loudest, we don’t have to take up the most amount of space, and we don’t have to earn the most money.”