It would be a fine thing if Democrats took the advice of TNR’s Tiffany Stanley and spent more energy trying to win religious voters away from the GOP. But she misunderstands why their recent efforts to do so have mostly failed. One of the glories of religion in the United States is that, since the early nineteenth century, it has been a ferociously democratic enterprise: Pious Americans are free to join any of the dozens of faiths on offer, none of which is beholden to secular authorities for either financing or legitimacy.
William Galston is a very smart man who ably bridges the gap between academia and policy-making as well as anyone in the country. But, when it comes to giving political advice, his penchant for centrist wonkery sometimes gets the best of him. The latest example is his suggestion that President Obama should make “comprehensive tax reform” the main goal of his next two years in office. Where’s the evidence that Americans would flock to his side if Obama staked his presidency on an inspirational call to build a greater, more prosperous nation—by simplifying the tax code?
John Judis has always been a shrewd reader of election returns. In “You’ve Got Them All Wrong, Mr. President,” his deconstruction of “independent” voters makes clear how meaningless it is for President Obama or anyone else to credit such a huge clump of undifferentiated leaners with the power to decide who runs Congress or gets to sit in the Oval Office.
Midway through her recent TNR article “Building the Progressive Brand,” Sara Robinson makes one essential point: Progressives, she writes, “have always been at our best when we speak from a place of strong moral authority, rooted deeply in a daring vision of the kind of world we’d like to create.” Unfortunately, she completely ignores how such visions emerged in the past and, worse, assumes that a clever ad campaign can substitute for serious political thinking and organizing. Powerful, history-changing ideologies—whether of left or right—are not commodities.
Bill McKibben has penned a more-in-sorrow-than-anger piece (“Hot Mess”) in the current issue of the magazine, shaking his head at conservatives’ failure to adopt his position on global warming. (It is an almost exact recapitulation of Al Gore’s argument in TNR a few months ago, to which I also replied).
Noam Scheiber’s profile of David Axelrod is a classic example of Washington personality journalism: It’s full of intimate details and smoothly written but accepts, with little comment, its subject’s opinion about what ails the administration Axelrod, the erstwhile liberal reporter from Chicago, helped put in office.
Once upon a time, The New Republic ran detailed, empathetic articles about the lives, ideas, and activism of American workers. “They seem easygoing, good-humored and straightforward Southerners,” wrote Edmund Wilson in a 1931 essay about the coal-miners of West Virginia, “so much in the old tradition of American backwoods independence that it is almost impossible to realize they have actually been reduced to the condition of serfs.” In 1966, Maury Maverick Jr. joined a mass march by Texas farmworkers that ended on Labor Day, on the steps of the state capitol building.
Raghuram G. Rajan has an excellent piece up on TNR’s website (“Let them Eat Credit”). Without trying to do too much violence to his argument, I would summarize it as follows: Growing income inequality in the United States has done tremendous damage to our economy. The most important cause for this inequality (supported by well-known research by Goldin and Katz) is that, although technological progress requires the labor force to have ever greater skills, our educational system has not kept pace by providing the labor force with greater sufficiently improved human capital.
Jonathan Chait approvingly quotes from another blogger the argument that emitting carbon dioxide is like spraying water on your neighbor’s house and says, therefore, that principled conservatives, as defenders of property rights, ought to either demand that emitters stop or else reach an agreement with their neighbors for mutually acceptable compensation. Metaphors applied to the specific ethical question of carbon emissions often employ some version of the thought experiment “polluting the neighbor’s yard.” In this example, it’s unclear whether the bad neighbor is meant to be an emitting soc
Jonathan Chait has responded to my post about our lack of knowledge about the practical effects of stimulus spending. He seems to be taking on opinions that aren’t mine. Chait begins his reply by claiming that I “oppose any stimulus at all.” This is a position which I did not present in the post, and which I do not hold. In fact, I have consistently advocated stimulus in the face of the current crisis, and generally in venues that are not as hospitable to this idea as The New Republic.