Selected readings from the left and from the right

Published September 12 2018
Updated September 14 2018

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 "Susan Collinsí Reputation As A Moderate Is On the Line" by Katha Pollitt in The Nation at

The context, from the author: The Maine senator says sheís pro-choice, so how can she justify voting for Brett Kavanaugh?

The excerpt: Kavanaugh will uphold making legal abortion as hard to get as possible and will ignore whatever laws and precedents ó and science ó get in the way. We know that because he has already done that. So when Collins declares herself satisfied with his "settled law" statement, what sheís really saying is that itís fine with her if the Supreme Court decides you can have an abortion, but first you have to swim the English Channel and kill a tiger with your bare hands.

From "America Is Living James Madisonís Nightmare" by Jeffrey Rosen in The Atlantic at

The context, from the author: The founding fathers designed a government that would resist mob rule. They didnít anticipate how strong the mob could become.

The excerpt: James Madison traveled to Philadelphia in 1787 with Athens on his mind. He had spent the year before the Constitutional Convention reading two trunkfuls of books on the history of failed democracies, sent to him from Paris by Thomas Jefferson. Madison was determined, in drafting the Constitution, to avoid the fate of those "ancient and modern confederacies," which he believed had succumbed to rule by demagogues and mobs. Madisonís reading convinced him that direct democracies ó such as the assembly in Athens, where 6,000 citizens were required for a quorum ó unleashed populist passions that overcame the cool, deliberative reason prized above all by Enlightenment thinkers.

From "How To Win In Trump Country" by Mason Adams in the New Republic at

The context, from the author: For Sen. Joe Manchin in West Virginia, itís simple: Keep it local. Focus on health care. And donít run against the president.

The excerpt: More than coal or cultural issues, what unites West Virginia voters is the desire for someone who will fight for them. The Mountain State frequently finds itself near the bottom of state-by-state rankings, whether in median household income (48th), teacher pay (47th), or health care rankings (44th). West Virginia has a long history of exploitation by outside interests, with revenue from timber, coal and most recently natural gas flowing out to companies and individuals in other states. Its voters want someone who will look out for them.


From "Why I Changed The Way I Write About Police Shootings" by David French in the National Review at

The context, from the author: Hereís the truth ó most cops are good, and too many bad cops go free.

The excerpt: To put it bluntly, when I look back at my older writings, I see them as contributing more to a particular partisan narrative than to a tough, clear-eyed search for truth. So Iíve set out to rectify that imbalance. A person can walk and chew gum at the same time. One can rightly condemn riots and radicalism while also noting that each time a bad cop walks free it damages the fabric of trust between the government and its citizens. One can rightly say that itís not "open season" on black men ó or that any given inflammatory allegation has been thoroughly debunked ó while also noting that the same Department of Justice that refuted "hands up, donít shoot" also found evidence of systematic police misconduct in Ferguson.

From "The Loneliness of the Anonymous Neighbor" by Casey Chalk in the American Conservative at

The context, from the author: Increasingly we donít know, care or trust the people who live near us.

The excerpt: As our neighbors packed their boxes into the moving truck outside their home on that Saturday in August, I stood for a moment with my eldest daughter to watch. The man (husband? brother?) was putting some things into his car. He looked like a perfectly normal guy. Yet I didnít know his name, where he had come from, or where he was going. I doubt anyone else in my community knew them either ó they were rarely seen outside. They will scarcely be remembered, and certainly not missed. The anonymous neighbor, like so many other tokens of our time ó the teenager whose closest friends are virtual, the single adult male spewing vitriol on the internet ó is something we must resist if we want to live fully human lives.

From " ĎAll Politics Is Localí? Not Even Close" by Brian Pawlowski in the Weekly Standard at

The context, from the author, who is running for local office as a Republican in Indiana: Our national political climate óreally the story of the ascendance of Trump, the transformation of the Republican Party, and the Democratic Partyís search for a response and cohesive identity ó has sucked up so much oxygen that local issues suffocate. The political conversation revolves around Trump at all levels. Before I can discuss ways to make my hometown better, people want, almost need, to know where I stand on our current political moment.

The excerpt: More often than before Iíve noticed that the first question people ask is my party affiliation. That hasnít always been important at the local level. People used to be fired up about why their trash hadnít been picked up or how the plow blocked in their car. Having worked in local government for a man whoís done pretty well at it (see here and here), I know how influential it can be to peopleís everyday lives. But rather than being focused on specific issues, people now seem possessed of a more general attitude thatís driving their views tics. Itís more instinctual, more guttural, more tribal, and more closed than ever to the "other."