Deprecated: iconv_set_encoding(): Use of iconv.internal_encoding is deprecated in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/joomla/utilities/string.php on line 26

Deprecated: iconv_set_encoding(): Use of iconv.input_encoding is deprecated in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/joomla/utilities/string.php on line 27

Deprecated: iconv_set_encoding(): Use of iconv.output_encoding is deprecated in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/joomla/utilities/string.php on line 28

Deprecated: Non-static method RokCandyHelper::getMacros() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/plugins/system/rokcandy/rokcandy.php on line 31

Deprecated: Non-static method RokCandyHelper::getTemplateOverrides() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/administrator/components/com_rokcandy/helpers/rokcandyhelper.php on line 22

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/joomla/filter/filterinput.php on line 582

Deprecated: Non-static method JSite::getMenu() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 1083

Deprecated: Non-static method JApplication::getMenu() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/includes/application.php on line 523

Deprecated: Non-static method JSite::getMenu() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 337

Deprecated: Non-static method JApplication::getMenu() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/includes/application.php on line 523

Deprecated: Non-static method GantrySessionParamOverride::populate() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 1237

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryCookieParamOverride::populate() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 1238

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryMenuItemParamOverride::populate() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 1241

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryMenuItemParamOverride::_populateSingleItem() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/params/overrides/gantrymenuitemparamoverride.class.php on line 36

Deprecated: Non-static method JSite::getMenu() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/params/overrides/gantrymenuitemparamoverride.class.php on line 54

Deprecated: Non-static method JApplication::getMenu() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/includes/application.php on line 523

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryMenuItemParamOverride::_populateSingleItem() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/params/overrides/gantrymenuitemparamoverride.class.php on line 36

Deprecated: Non-static method JSite::getMenu() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/params/overrides/gantrymenuitemparamoverride.class.php on line 54

Deprecated: Non-static method JApplication::getMenu() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/includes/application.php on line 523

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryUrlParamOverride::populate() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 1244

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryUrl::explode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 586

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryUrl::implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 593

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryUrl::updateParams() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 598

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryUrl::explode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/utilities/gantryurl.class.php on line 130

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryUrl::implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/utilities/gantryurl.class.php on line 133

Deprecated: Non-static method JSite::getMenu() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/features/morearticles.php on line 46

Deprecated: Non-static method JApplication::getMenu() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/includes/application.php on line 523

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/joomla/filter/filterinput.php on line 582

Deprecated: Non-static method JSite::getMenu() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/features/pagesuffix.php on line 38

Deprecated: Non-static method JApplication::getMenu() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/includes/application.php on line 523

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/joomla/filter/filterinput.php on line 582
Green Government and Business

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryModulesRenderer::display() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 678

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryModulesRenderer::display() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 678

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryModulesRenderer::display() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 678

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryModulesRenderer::display() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 678

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryMainBodyRenderer::display() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 664

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/joomla/filter/filterinput.php on line 582

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::fix_protocol() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 833

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::normalize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9287

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::parse_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9288

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_curl_version() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 7675

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::xml_encoding() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 1740

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::change_encoding() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 1759

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::encoding() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9411

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14929

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14929

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14929

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14929

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::is_isegment_nz_nc() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 2631

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Parse_Date::get() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 3609

New Republic

New Republic

  1. Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14929

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::is_isegment_nz_nc() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 3730

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949
    Ron Chernow’s Grant Is Popular History at its Best

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

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    This is a strange time for a genre of American history that is sometimes derisively referred to as “dad history.” These approachable tomes about the great men of the past are a fixture of airport bookstores and Barnes & Noble wishlists, and they have never been more popular or lucrative. David McCullough’s John Adams became an HBO miniseries. Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton became Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway musical. Many of these titles—particularly Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals—have transcended their genre, becoming fodder for entrepreneurs and the managerial class. After all, who better to teach us the lessons of leadership than the greatest leaders ever?

    But even as dad history has reached its cultural zenith, it has never seemed more out of step with the times. Advances in historical scholarship have brought more attention to the plight of Native Americans, African Americans, women, and other marginalized groups. Greater attention is being paid to the original sins of the United States—slavery and genocide—and the way they have reverberated across the centuries. The best works of recent narrative history, such as Edward Ayers’s The Thin Light of Freedom and Heather Anne Thompson’s Blood in the Water, have focused on ordinary Americans’ contributions to seismic events, a ground-level viewpoint that is at odds with the Great Man perspective.

    GRANT by Ron ChernowPenguin Press, 1104 pp., $40

    And then there is the current occupant of the White House, whose “I alone can fix it” approach to governance should give Great Man historians pause. If there was ever evidence that history is moved by broader forces, as opposed to the talents of any one individual, Donald Trump is it. And the emergence of Trump as the country’s preeminent political figure is a sure sign that those original sins are very much still with us.

    Chernow’s new book, Grant, is deft at navigating these tricky currents. Coming in at a well-paced but absolutely gargantuan 959 pages, Grant is a stirring defense of an underrated general and unfairly maligned president. Its great contribution to the popular understanding of the Civil War and its aftermath is to expose the roots of the longstanding bias against Grant: White southerners and their allies wanted to portray Reconstruction as a tragic folly, rather than a radical and unfinished revolution.

    To be sure, a sympathetic treatment was to be expected: Chernow is enormously defensive of his subjects. Alexander Hamilton and Washington: A Life are both handicapped by his refusal to acknowledge any flaw (elitism and slaveholding, respectively) without heavy qualifications. He has often been praised for humanizing marble men, but in fact Chernow is uncomfortable with their shortcomings, which leads him to create marble men that are merely a little more lifelike. Secondary characters often suffer, because his subjects’ enemies often become his enemies. Chernow’s work is best understood as a kind of modern myth-making, updating the stories of America’s past in ways that make them come alive in the present.

    In Grant he is aided enormously by his subject’s extraordinary life. The book tracks his struggles as a civilian; his incredible and rapid rise during the Civil War; his unexpected fall at the hands of the con man Ferdinand Ward, the 19th century’s Bernie Madoff; and, eventually, the writing of his memoirs, one of the greatest works of American literature. (Ironically, the strength of The Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, which have just been reissued in a very helpful annotated edition, may have delayed the recognition of Grant’s genius by discouraging potential biographers.)

    For a book that seeks to set the record straight, it is also aided by the flimsy but strongly held myths about Grant, nearly all of which can be sourced to critics of Reconstruction and Lost Causers: that Grant was a butcher who only won victories because of the North’s technological superiority and numerical strength; that his presidency was defined solely by corruption; that his lifelong struggle with alcoholism was deeply debilitating.

    Despite writing very long books, Chernow is not one to get bogged down in anything that isn’t the main plot. Fort Sumter is fired upon on page 123, while the next 15 years constitute 735 pages, meaning that Grant’s first 40 years and final decade get about 100 pages each. This makes for a propulsive and focused book, but it does have its drawbacks, particularly when it comes to filling out Grant’s elusive character. This is most evident when the discussion turns to his flaws, about which Chernow is characteristically apologetic.

    Grant has been universally praised for his composure under pressure and in the heat of battle, but he was a sucker who was repeatedly betrayed by people close to him and who was easily connived out of money. Chernow is as mystified by this trait as Grant’s contemporaries were. His odious General Order No. 11, which expelled Jews from the military district under Grant’s control, is torturously explained as being aimed more at Grant’s opportunistic father, who had entered into business with Jewish businessmen in an attempt to profit from his son’s success.

    Then there’s the vexing issue of Grant’s alcoholism. Here, Chernow is, to his credit, remarkably sympathetic. He treats alcoholism as a disease that Grant largely overcame, rather than a personal failing. Once again he is defensive about his hero’s weaknesses, but in this case it is channeled in a useful way. Grant’s alcoholism was frequently used by his foes, many of whom opposed Reconstruction, to denigrate the man who was championing black labor and voting participation.

    Chernow is most comfortable describing battles and landmark achievements, so it’s no surprise that his treatment of Grant’s role in the Civil War is the book’s most fully realized section. Other generals—Grant’s friend and sometimes frenemy William Tecumseh Sherman, Robert E. Lee, the despicable Nathan Bedford Forrest—are typically held up as the “geniuses” of the War. But Chernow persuasively makes the case that Grant was its most-forward thinking and innovative general and that, while he had equals as a tactician, his ability to manage, mobilize, and deploy enormous armies was unsurpassed. Chernow is also in fine form depicting Grant’s commitment to abolition, which grew dramatically during the course of the war and has not been adequately explained by other popular biographies. In Grant, Chernow patiently unspools Grant’s realization that the Civil War is about slavery and, ultimately, equal protection.

    This leads to Grant’s real strength: its treatment of Reconstruction. It is portrayed as a continuation of the divisions that led to the Civil War, rather than a grace note, a national embarrassment, or a well-intentioned failure. Ken Burns’s 1990 documentary The Civil War, which made a maudlin case that the war ultimately brought the country closer together and largely ignored its aftermath, emerged right at a moment when the so-called revisionist interpretation of Reconstruction was ascendant. Grant breaks little new ground historically, but the fact that it treats Reconstruction as the beginning of a long, troubled fight for equality in America is nevertheless important.

    Chernow can be too fatalistic at times. He excuses the failure to redistribute lands as politically impossible, and treats Grant’s retreat from Reconstruction in 1875 as a tragic inevitability, given that many in the North had tired of the military occupation of the South. The treatment of Native Americans during Grant’s presidency, meanwhile, is muddled: Chernow is torn between Grant’s assimilation-oriented Peace Policy and the reality that the president’s old friends Sherman and Phil Sheridan oversaw numerous massacres while under his authority. Chernow also tends to insulate Grant from his administration’s corruption, which he insists he knew little about. This helps keep the focus on Grant’s devotion to fighting for progress and against the Ku Klux Klan in the South, but also feels disingenuous—continuous scandal, in fact, damaged the administration’s credibility and helped undercut Reconstruction efforts.

    But to his credit, Chernow is no sentimentalist. In past accounts (by biographers, but also in the kinds of folktales that usually pass for American history) Grant’s funeral symbolized a nation finally coming together after the Civil War: Grant’s coffin was carried by three Southern generals and three Northern generals, all of them united in grief. Chernow resists this familiar cliché, with an account of the funeral that is affecting but based in an ambivalent reality about what Grant was able to accomplish during his life.

    Chernow underscores Grant’s tremendous efforts on behalf of the four million slaves freed during and after the Civil War, while acknowledging the fact that Reconstruction remains unfinished even today. Popular history emphasizes neatness and inevitable triumph in the face of adversity, and Grant’s presidency was neither neat nor triumphant. He was a complicated hero who won the Civil War but was never quite able to win the peace—or the ultimate promise of emancipation. By placing this imperfect hero at the center of a book sure to be found under the Christmas tree, Chernow has given us a rare kind of popular history: one that forces readers to confront hard truths, not just revel in America’s all too fleeting triumphs.


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    Sibling Rivalry
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    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

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    At a town hall meeting in New York City early this year, Nancy Pelosi fielded a thorny question about the direction of her party. Trevor Hill, a dapper New York University sophomore sporting a light purple shirt and suspenders, wanted to know where the House minority leader stood on the question of socialism. A recent poll had shown that more than half of all American voters younger than 30—not just Democrats—no longer support capitalism. This statistic felt true to Hill’s own experience, not just among his NYU classmates but also from what he’d seen in polls and on television. He was glad that Democrats had moved to the left on social issues, like gay marriage. So why, he asked Pelosi, couldn’t they move left on economic issues? Could she see Democrats embracing a “more populist message—the way the alt-right has sort of captured this populist strain on the right wing?”

    After politely thanking Hill for his question, Pelosi was quick to shoot down any talk of left-wing populism. “We’re capitalist,” she told him firmly, “and that’s just the way it is.” To be sure, Pelosi acknowledged, there are serious flaws in the system: CEOs are making too much money, and the social safety net has worn thin. But Pelosi assured Hill that Democrats, aided by enlightened capitalists, can solve such problems. The alternative—introducing socialist-oriented policies such as universal health care or free college education for all—is unthinkable. “I don’t think we have to change from capitalism,” Pelosi concluded. “We’re a capitalist system.”

    The contrast between Pelosi, a centrist liberal, and Hill, a young leftist, is emblematic of deep fissures within the Democratic Party. These divisions—which flared up during last year’s brutal primary race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and have only intensified since Donald Trump’s victory—are often seen in narrowly partisan terms, as a lingering quarrel between rival Democratic factions. But it’s a grave mistake to dismiss this dispute as nothing but postelection infighting. In truth, Clinton and Sanders are proxies in a long-standing ideological battle between the two major camps within the Democratic Party: liberals and socialists.

    If the battle seems intense, it’s because the two camps are so closely related. Liberalism and socialism are best understood as sibling rivals. Both were born of the common inheritance of the Enlightenment and the democratic revolutions of the nineteenth century. Both are committed to secular amelioration of the human condition. Their family feud is waged over the central issue of the nature of capitalism. Liberals see it as a flawed but worthy system that needs reform, while socialists push for its ultimate (if distant) transformation into a system where major economic decisions are brought under democratic control.

    As with all sibling rivalries, competition brings out the best and the worst in both sides. Over the past century, liberals and socialists have engaged in rancorous debate, bitter recrimination, and even political repression. Yet Democratic presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Lyndon B. Johnson won their most consequential victories when they faced strong left-wing challenges. Liberals’ greatest achievements—including child labor laws, Social Security, and Medicare—were all based on ideas that socialists agitated for. The most radical phase of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency—the Second New Deal period from 1935 to 1936, when the federal government guaranteed workers the right to organize and enacted a large-scale public works program—took place against the backdrop of intense organizing by socialists and communists. It was widespread fear of this working-class militancy that allowed FDR to push through a far-reaching agenda.

    Going forward, the crucial question for Democrats is whether socialists and liberals can overcome their rivalry and find ways to work together. In an age of nationalist fervor and populist unrest, neither can succeed alone. As any child knows, there’s nobody harder to get along with than a member of your own family. But that is what it will take for liberals and socialists to reclaim their common inheritance, defeat Trumpism, and forge a more egalitarian and representative democracy.


    Socialism has been in eclipse in America for so long that we don’t normally think of it as a major ideological force. While Eugene Debs presided over a vibrant third party in the early twentieth century, becoming the most popular left-wing insurgent ever to run for president, his successor, Norman Thomas, won only 0.29 percent of the vote as the Socialist Party candidate in 1948. Over the course of a century, socialism in America transformed from mass movement to die-hard sect to an eccentric hobby. In his book Blood of the Liberals, the journalist George Packer provided a dispiriting account of what it was like to be a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, the major organ for socialist politics after Debs’s party dissolved, during the 1990s. “The organization acquainted me with the pathos of left-wing activism in twilight,” Packer recalled:

    It was marginal, pedestrian work, based on the eternal postponement of gratification: three-hour board meetings in a narrow room in a church basement; a two-year fund drive to buy a used computer; a snowbound forum on the Canadian left, whose announcement reached most of the membership too late because the nonprofit mailing wasn’t sorted properly. The word “Sisyphean” is misleading, since we never pushed our rock anywhere close to the top.

    Given this disarray, the most enduring legacy of 2016 might not be Donald Trump’s presidency, but the rebirth of American socialism. Sanders, a democratic socialist, won 43 percent of the vote in the Democratic Party primaries and has, polls show, become the most popular active politician in America since Trump’s election.

    The Sanders campaign was the crest of a larger socialist wave that began with the global financial crisis. The ensuing recession, coupled with the manifest failure of either Democrats or Republicans to address the crisis adequately, sent more and more Americans in search of explanations and solutions that establishment politics did not offer. On the right, this contributed to the rise of the Tea Party, Breitbart News, and Donald Trump. On the left, Occupy Wall Street critiqued the predatory one percent in a new vocabulary, while Rolling Jubilee attempted to salve the crushing burdens of student and medical debt. DSA membership has surged to record levels, and socialist magazines both new and old (Dissent, n+1, Jacobin) hum with lively debates over single-payer health care and universal basic income. For the first time since the 1960s, the left wing of the American political spectrum doesn’t end at left-liberalism, but extends to socialism.

    In the realm of political theory, if not in the messier realities of practice, it has long seemed logical and necessary that liberalism and socialism should converge. In the nineteenth century, John Stuart Mill, the foremost heir to classical liberalism, concluded that liberalism’s commitment to private property and limited government, born of an age when suffrage was still restricted to propertied men, would have to be modified in the age of mass democracy, when both women and working-class men had won the vote. The newly enfranchised masses would make material demands that couldn’t be met by the minimal state endorsed by classical liberalism. The liberal ideal of individual freedom could only become real to most people if it were bolstered by socialist economic policies.

    “The social problem of the future,” Mill explained in 1873, was “how to unite the greatest individual liberty of action, with a common ownership in the raw materials of the globe, and an equal participation of all in the benefits of combined labor.” Mill’s project of creating a liberal socialism (or a socialist liberalism) was taken up by such distinguished successors as Bertrand Russell and John Dewey. “The cause of liberalism will be lost,” Dewey observed in 1935, “if it is not prepared to go further and socialize the forces of production now at hand.” Dewey was writing at the height of the Great Depression, when European business elites were openly supporting fascism as a means to counter working-class militancy. Bourgeois liberal society, it was clear, could not defend its own achievements unless it accepted social democratic reform.

    In practice, however, relations between liberals and socialists have been tense and sometimes bloody. Consider the fate of Debs, who received nearly 6 percent of the vote as the Socialist Party candidate for president in 1912. Under his leadership, the party won over a thousand local races across the country, electing socialist mayors in 24 states. Debsian socialism was broad and inclusive, attracting immigrants in New York and Oklahoma farmers. His party stood also at the forefront of the feminism of the time, supporting female suffrage and the legalization of birth control.

    Yet the Socialist Party was ultimately undermined by Woodrow Wilson, who both stole its ideas and suppressed its leaders. As Irving Howe observes in Socialism in America, many of Wilson’s major reforms were drawn directly from the “traditional socialist legislative program,” including “a graduated income tax, the Clayton Act to limit labor injunctions, a child labor law, several laws helping farmers, the direct election of senators.” Having stolen socialism’s thunder, Wilson used the powers of the state to quash the Socialist Party. Declaring Debs a “traitor to his country” for his opposition to America’s entry into World War I, the Wilson administration banned socialist publications and jailed party activists—including Debs himself, who was convicted of sedition in 1919. The following year, when Debs ran for president from his prison cell in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, he received nearly a million votes.


    While relations between liberals and socialists would never get so low again, certain patterns would recur. Socialist energy and activism continued to push liberals toward their most far-reaching reforms, ranging from Social Security under FDR to the War on Poverty under LBJ (which took inspiration from Michael Harrington’s The Other America). Yet time and again, socialists came away disappointed by the way such reforms were weakened or derailed by the persistent power of big business. This sense of betrayal contributed to the marginalization and isolation of the party’s left, steadily reducing the influence that socialists were able to exert on the liberal establishment.

    Norman Thomas, who had been active in organizing sharecroppers during the 1920s and 1930s, was furious that farm relief under FDR funneled taxpayer money to big planters, a key constituency of the Democratic Party. Thomas became an implacable critic of the New Deal, which he felt did not go far enough in reforming capitalism. In the ’60s, LBJ’s escalation of the Vietnam War similarly derailed the possibility of a socialist-liberal alliance, driving many young idealists away from mainstream politics into political extremism or apolitical self-indulgence. Politically engaged young people who might have become Democratic Party activists instead joined the Weather Underground or retreated into communes where they cultivated their organic gardens.

    Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs was declared a traitor for his opposition to World War I.Bettmann/Getty

    In his survey of American socialism, Irving Howe came to the surprising conclusion that the most promising model for liberal-socialist cooperation came not from the party of Debs but from a movement even further to the left: the Popular Front forged by the American Communist Party between 1935 and 1939. During this period, the party demonstrated a skill for realpolitik that Debs and Thomas were incapable of. Instead of opposing the Democrats, the Communists became their junior partners, forming anti-fascist front groups that pitched communism as a patriotic movement. Repackaging themselves as “liberals in a hurry,” the Communists worked hard to emphasize the shared goals of a broad left.

    To be sure, the Popular Front’s attempts to make socialism as American as apple pie sometimes sounded absurd. In 1938, the Young Communist League at the University of Wisconsin put out a pamphlet that read:

    Some people have the idea that a YCLer is politically minded, that nothing outside of politics means anything. Gosh no. They have a few simple problems. There is the problem of getting good men on the baseball team this spring, of opposition from ping-pong teams, of dating girls, etc. We go to shows, parties, dances and all of that. In short, the YCL and its members are no different from other people except that we believe in dialectical materialism as a solution to all problems.

    But however strained its sales pitch may have been, the Popular Front embraced a key insight that had eluded socialists. In The Heyday of American Communism, published in 1984, historian Harvey Klehr argued that the Communists “discovered just how open and permeable American political parties were.” As Communist official Terry Pettus told Klehr, “You are a member of whatever you say you are.” Just by working within the system, Pettus and his comrades discovered, a small group of activists “could win control of a large segment of the Democratic Party.” By forging a successful alliance with liberals, the Popular Front enabled the Communist Party to become a significant political force in states like New York, Minnesota, and Washington.

    For Howe, the lesson was that socialists like Debs and Thomas might have profited from creating their own version of the Popular Front. Rather than establishing a third party—a strategy doomed to failure in America’s winner-take-all electoral system—socialists should try to become an influential faction within the Democratic Party, winning elections on the party ticket and shaping policy from Washington State to Washington, D.C. That’s what Jesse Jackson attempted with the Rainbow Coalition, expanding the range of ideas and constituencies that were welcomed within the party. That’s how the Tea Party transformed itself into the dominant force within the Republican Party in the space of a few years. And that’s the strategy Bernie Sanders pursued when he ran as a Democrat in 2016, injecting socialist ideas directly into the liberal mainstream and forcing the party further to the left.


    Socialist strategy isn’t the only thing that has prevented the emergence of a new Popular Front. While Democrats under Wilson and FDR embraced and even implemented ideas from the left, today’s liberals have worked hard to distance themselves not only from socialism, but also from liberalism. The historic cooperation between the two broke down with the rise of Bill Clinton and the New Democrats, who championed Third Way politics in the ’90s. In an earlier era, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. had envisioned liberalism as inhabiting the “vital center” between “fascism to the right, communism to the left.” Clinton adopted Schlesinger’s term—speaking of the “vital American center”—but he located his midpoint on a very different spectrum. Clinton positioned himself a centrist standing between the conservative extremism of Ronald Reagan and the older liberalism of FDR and LBJ.

    Third Way politics moved the center rightward. Clintonism wasn’t just to the right of New Deal liberalism on specific policies, like welfare reform and balanced budgets—he urged Democrats to embrace the right’s underlying ideological framework. “The era of big government is over,” he declared in his State of the Union address in 1996, abandoning any commitment to bringing the economy under a modest degree of democratic control. In the place of government regulation, Third Way liberals now extolled the market as the solution to all of society’s problems. Government itself had to be brought under the discipline of market economics, made leaner and more entrepreneurial. Instead of large, universal programs like Social Security and Medicare, Third Way liberals supported targeted, market-friendly ideas like privatization and welfare reform. If there had to be more government spending, it would be means-tested.

    Third Way politics returned Democrats to the White House—but it also laid the groundwork for the rise of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Barack Obama won by promising hope and change, but he governed by hewing to the market-friendly version of liberalism staked out by Bill Clinton. He was wary of implementing public-works programs even in response to the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression, refused to crack down on the big banks responsible for the crisis, and tinkered with health care markets rather than pushing for a single-payer system. Whatever success Obama achieved, his brand of liberalism remained well to the right of that of FDR.

    But while Obama worked to protect liberalism from any whiff of socialism, extremists on the right were forging a powerful alliance of their own. With Obama’s election, the Tea Party—a movement that cloaked its fanaticism in the language of patriotism—staged a coup of the Republican Party. At the same time, the legacy of a quarter-century of Third Way policies, from free trade to financial deregulation, supercharged the wealth of the one percent and drove millions of Americans into joblessness, insecurity, and debt. To respond to these crises, liberals need the energy and ideas of socialism, while the left needs the access to power that only the Democrats can provide in our two-party system. As a result, the possibilities of a successful alliance between liberals and socialists is greater today than at any point since LBJ’s creation of the Great Society.


    To forge a modern-day Popular Front, both liberals and socialists will have to give a little, making a variety of ideological compromises in the interests of political unity. Take foreign policy: Democrats like Hillary Clinton have supported the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and don’t treat Israel’s occupation of the West Bank as a pressing problem. Socialists, by contrast, tend to oppose U.S. intervention overseas, and DSA has backed the campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel. Daniel Biss, a Democratic state senator running for governor of Illinois, recently demonstrated the limits of liberal tolerance in foreign policy when he dropped his running mate, DSA member Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, over his involvement in BDS.

    Another hurdle is money. Socialists hold that a party reliant on big donors isn’t free to fight for economic equality. You can’t run on lowering drug prices, say, when pharmaceutical companies are funding your campaign. Fortunately, socialists appear to have come up with an alternative funding model that could help overcome this obstacle: Last year, Sanders raised $220 million mostly from a broad base of individual donors, who contributed an average of $27 each to his campaign. If the Sanders model can be replicated in congressional races and elect a Democratic president, then liberals need no longer be beholden to Wall Street and big corporate interests.

    A final obstacle to an alliance of socialists and liberals is identity politics. For most of the past century, socialists have been well ahead of most liberals in opposing racism and sexism. But socialists have done themselves no favors by insisting that class must take precedence over issues like race and gender—a position that comes across as dismissive of the concerns of women and people of color. Certainly Sanders made himself vulnerable on this front by treating identity politics as little more than a distraction from the goal of economic equality. In the wake of the 2016 election, Sanders continued to emphasize class above all else: “It’s not good enough to say, ‘Hey, I’m a Latina, vote for me.’ I have to know whether that Latina is going to stand up with the working class of this country and is going to take on big money interests.”

    To overcome the sharp divide over class and identity, socialists must develop a new generation of politicians—one that can speak to such issues in a more sophisticated way. Since economic inequality is deeply intertwined with both race and gender, it’s reasonable for socialists to argue that focusing on income redistribution will disproportionately help women and people of color. But politics isn’t just a matter of pursuing the right policy—it’s about voice and representation. For socialism to succeed, it can’t come from a white male demanding that women and people of color choose between their class interests and their racial and cultural identity. The political face of socialism—the leaders who represent it—must resemble the actual working class, which is increasingly nonwhite and female.

    Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton, 1995: Third Way liberals like Clinton moved the center rightward.Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty

    Despite such hurdles, though, there is good reason to think that socialists and liberals can forge a Popular Front, one motivated by the need to confront a common enemy: a capitalist system that has returned America to the stark inequality of the Gilded Age. In recent years, there’s been a dramatic shift in liberal thinking about the nature of capitalism itself. As tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon increasingly exert their influence on all aspects of public life, activists like Barry Lynn have played a major role in reviving anti-monopoly politics among liberals. Documenting the concentration of corporate power, the Open Markets Initiative has pushed for a revival of antitrust laws, a powerful tool and central tenet of the Democratic Party until the rise of Third Way liberalism. In the current political landscape, liberals are being forced to reexamine the systemic nature of the crisis, which means finding blame not just in a baleful individual (Trump) or even his party (the Republicans) but also in the larger social forces that made the crisis possible.

    For the first time in decades, liberals are starting to see entrenched capital as the primary foe. What were once heretical positions are now becoming litmus tests for politicians on the national stage. When Sanders introduced his Medicare for All proposal in early September, almost a third of all Democrats in the Senate signed on as co-sponsors. Notably, the list included many of the politicians considered most likely to run for president in 2020, including Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

    Whether or not Sanders himself runs again, he’s clearly setting the agenda for policy debates that have long been the exclusive domain of liberals. Democrats are once again listening to the ideas and vision of the socialist left. The limits of the possible—the best working measure of politics—have expanded enormously. Both sides recognize that democracy cannot function as long as moneyed interests go unchallenged. Which means that Nancy Pelosi’s response to the hopeful NYU student—“We’re capitalist”—is no longer the final answer.


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    Trump’s Dangerous Spin on Puerto Rico’s Suffering
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    Last week, the public got a rare glimpse at the art of spinning a federal natural disaster response. On Friday, Bloomberg reporter Christopher Flavelle published excerpts from internal Pentagon emails he accidentally received, in which officials at the Defense Department and Federal Emergency Management Agency discussed their press strategy for the government’s flailing relief effort in Puerto Rico. Flavelle was included on these messages for five days, despite his repeatedly alerting Pentagon officials of their error. Ultimately, he decided to publish them, noting that they offered “a glimpse into the federal government’s struggle to convince the public that the response effort was going well.”

    The emails also showed how public affairs officers had to adapt each day to deal with President Donald Trump’s blustery, unpredictable rhetoric. “Much of recent media coverage is focused on the dialogue between POTUS and San Juan’s mayor,” read one advisory dated September 30, after Trump publicly attacked San Juan’s mayor on Twitter. “Many are criticizing POTUS’ lack of empathy for PR’s hardship. The public’s perception of U.S. Government continues to be negative as the response in PR is seen as too slow.” One day later, after Trump called critics of the disaster response “politically motivated ingrates,” an advisory went out noting that “the perception of [government] response continues to be negative.” Spokespeople were recommended to say, “I am very proud of our DOD forces,” while admitting that “there are some challenges to work through.”

    I know this not only from Flavelle’s story, but because I also received the emails (as did Miami Herald journalist Jim Wyss, who didn’t return my request for comment). The first email was on September 28, after I spoke with a DOD communications officer to ask exactly when they received a formal request for aid; how long did it took for the military to deploy to Puerto Rico; and why helicopters weren’t being deployed to certain unreachable areas. I didn’t get concrete answers to all of those questions, but I did get included on the private Pentagon listserv.

    John Cornielo, deputy director of public affairs for the U.S. Northern Command, later told me this was an honest mistake; I had asked to be added to the press list, and was added to the wrong one. He also disagreed that the agency was engaging in spin. “I wouldn’t say we’re putting on a positive response, I would say we’re telling it as accurately as we can—positive, negative, and neutral,” he said. “Clearly, things down there are not going well. But there are also things that are improving on an everyday basis, and those are important stories to tell as well.”

    There’s an ongoing debate about who’s responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. Some say the military has been too slow, while others blame the Puerto Rican government is responsible. But in at least one respect, there’s no dispute: The Trump administration’s public relations have been a debacle, as the president and his political appointees issue dishonest statements and career public servants struggle to keep the focus on the federal response. This communications catastrophe is much more than just a professional annoyance for journalists; it’s having a tangible impact on mainland politics and, even worse, on the welfare of Puerto Ricans.


    In Puerto Rico right now, 86 percent of the 3.4 million residents don’t have electricity. There are shortages of food and medicine. Water is so scarce that some people are drinking from toxic Superfund sites. And there’s an environmental crisis unfolding, too, as raw sewage pours into rivers and reservoirs. But on Friday, Trump insisted otherwise. “They’re all healing,” he said. “Their states and territories are healing and they are healing rapidly.”

    Senior officials have been in denial, too. Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke called Hurricane Maria “a good news story.” (“When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story,” said an outraged San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. “This is a people-are-dying story.”) In an email to all White House staff earlier this month, Department of Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert reportedly pledged “to turn the corner on our public communications,” insisting, “The storm caused these problems, not our response to it.” And rather than deny the truth, some officials would rather simply erase it: FEMA “removed information from its website documenting how much of the island of Puerto Rico still lacked power or access to drinking water,” the Washington Post reported.

    kff.org

    This strategy hasn’t proven very convincing to the press or the broader public. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey of 1,000 adults from October 4-8 found that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that Puerto Ricans “are not yet getting the help they need.” But to Republicans, Trump is doing a swell job: 74 percent believe the federal government is doing enough to help, and 75 percent say the response speed has been just right. That’s the real danger of the administration’s denial. Republicans have unified control of the government; the relief effort in Puerto Rico, from the emergency responders on the ground to the additional funds that FEMA needs, is largely dependent on the White House and Congress. If Republican constituents truly believe that Puerto Ricans are “all healing,” their elected officials face no pressure to improve what is widely considered a poor federal response.

    Until that response is improved, millions of Americans in Puerto Rico will suffer needlessly. For some, simply surviving is the main challenge—finding enough food and potable water, and some cases maintaining a steady supply of critical medications. In other cases, the struggle is mental. “We know how to eat from the earth,” Neil Delgado, a Puerto Rican who fled to Florida, told the Washington Post. “The problem now is psychological. Everyone is stressed. They’re in kind of a depression. And it’s going to get worse.” Some feel that they cannot express their full outrage at Trump because of their dependence on him. “The majority of people here feel [angry],” San Juan resident Rachel Cruz told the Associated Press, “but we have to be more balanced because we need help.” Surely, it does not help that their president denies that they’re even suffering.

    The only silver lining here is that Puerto Ricans, faced with the Trump administration’s untruths, are determined to do something about it politically. Those living on the island do not have the right to vote, but Puerto Ricans living in Florida do. One million residents of Florida are of Puerto Rican descent, and according to the Post, more than 100,000 living on the island may relocate to Florida—the most populous swing state in America—because of the impacts of the storm. “All politics is about motivation,” Anthony Suarez, the first Puerto Rican member of the Florida House, told the Post. “And at this point, the Hispanic community here is extremely motivated against Trump.”


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    Art Laffer and the Intellectual Rot of the Republican Party
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    The economist Arthur Laffer appeared early Monday on the Fox Business Network to defend the current president’s proposed tax cuts. “I’m hoping the Democrats vote with it. They should vote with it, they believe in it, they want it,” he said, wrongly. “To let this partisanship go to that extreme that they vote against America is, to me, shocking. I can’t imagine a lot of them not voting in favor of the president’s bill.” Minutes later, he added, “I just don’t know how a Democrat can honestly vote against this bill and hold his face up high to the electorate. It just doesn’t make sense to me.” Donald Trump, a known cable-news addict, tweeted later that morning:

    The Democrats only want to increase taxes and obstruct. That's all they are good at!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2017

    Laffer might not be a familiar figure to many of Trump’s 40 million Twitter followers, but the former economic adviser to President Ronald Reagan is a giant within the Republican Party as the “godfather” of supply-side economics, the theory that cutting taxes and regulations creates economic growth (a cousin to trickle-down economics, which argues more specifically for tax cuts for the rich). In reality, though, Laffer is a Svengali or huckster who holds unconscionable influence on one of America’s two major parties, despite his ideas having been discredited—and not only by critics on the left—from the very beginning. That Trump and other Republican policymakers are promoting Laffer’s disproven theory yet again is the most damning evidence of the party’s intellectual rot.

    The legend of Laffer begins with a bar napkin, on which he drew the famous “Laffer Curve” during a meeting in 1974 with Donald Rumsfeld, then President Gerald Ford’s chief of staff, and Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld’s deputy. The Smithsonian is currently displaying what they claim to be the original napkin, but Laffer himself disputes its authenticity, telling The New York Times that he thinks it’s a keepsake he created later. Still, the Smithsonian is right to to honor this most famous of American serviettes, the Magna Carta of modern Republican economics.

    The Laffer Curve napkin displayed by the Smithsonian, dated 9/13/74, reads, “If you tax a product less results. If you subsidize a product more results. We’ve been taxing work, output and income and subsidizing non-work, leisure and unemployment. The consequences are obvious!”National Museum of American History

    The bell-shaped curve illustrates Laffer’s argument that there are two points where a tax rate generates no income: 0 percent, for obvious reasons, and 100 percent, because no one would work if their entire income were taxed. Between those two points, if we follow the trajectory of Laffer’s semicircle, there’s a point where rising taxes raises more revenue, but also a downhill slide where a higher tax rate becomes counterproductive. The curve is more theoretical than practical, since it doesn’t answer the question of when a tax rate is too high. As a matter of politics, though, it offers a splendid rhetorical tool to Republicans who want to slash taxes for the wealthy without having to worry about the deficit: Tax cuts, they claim, spur enough economic growth to offset the lost revenue.

    But Laffer’s insistence that tax cuts are self-financing has been disproven time and again over the past 40 years. Reagan’s tax cuts were followed by ballooning debt. Clinton raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans, then the economy expanded and the government recorded its first budget surplus since the 1960s. After George W. Bush’s tax cuts, America fell back into red and the economy sputtered.

    Marketwatch.com

    Of course, as some Republicans will note, the tax rate is one of many factors that impact economic growth or contraction; the late ’90s tech boom helped Clinton, then hurt Bush when it burst. But ardent supply-siders like Laffer claim that the tax rate is the determining factor, which, considering the historical graph above, makes their case even weaker. As Jonathan Chait demonstrated in his 2007 book The Big Con, “supply-siders have taken the germ of a decent point—that marginal tax rates matter—and stretched it, beyond all plausibility, into a monocausal explanation of the world.” The supply-siders “think booms and busts result from changes in tax policy—and only from changes in tax policy.” In reality, the Laffer Curve is a solution to an imaginary problem. While there might be a point where higher taxes yield less revenue, America is nowhere near that juncture. According to the Tax Policy Center, the nation’s tax revenue in 2015 equaled 26 percent of the gross domestic product, compared to an average of 34 percent average among developed economies.

    For these and other empirical reasons, economists across the political spectrum are dismissive of the Laffer Curve. Harvard economist Greg Mankiw, an outspoken conservative who led George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors, has called supply-siders “Charlatans and Cranks” and compared them to a “snake-oil salesman.” Paul Krugman, the liberal New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize–winning economist, often argues with Mankiw on economic policy, but also thinks “the supply-siders are cranks” who adhere to a doctrine “without a shred of logic or evidence in its favor.” This widespread criticism is almost as old as the Laffer Curve itself. As The Washington Post reported in 1989, at the dawn of George H. W. Bush’s presidency:

    Laffer’s mathematical ‘curve’ gained folklore status—if limited acceptance by other analysts..... Critics seize on the $155 billion federal budget deficit as proof that the tax cuts he advocated were excessive. They also dismiss the supply-side claim that a tax cut could pay for itself by stimulating new business activity, a claim Laffer says that others exaggerated. “History has contradicted, not confirmed, the Laffer hypothesis,’’ said Robert Eisner, an economics professor at Northwestern University and past president of the American Economic Association. “Certainly, I think it made no contribution to professional economics.’’ Lawrence Chimerine, chairman of the WEFA Group, an economic consulting firm in Bala-Cynwyd, Pa., said the tax cuts aggravated America’s financial ills, including the trade deficit. He described the benefits promised by Laffer and others as “way, way overblown.’’

    Laffer’s theory originally took root, though, because he “voiced a message that the president liked to hear.” The same is true today, as Trump’s tweets on Monday attest, but it’s also a message that Republican leaders in Congress like to hear; they’re all behind the tax reform plan unveiled last month, which is nothing if not a paean to supply-side economics. As Paul Krugman notes, “The main elements of the plan are a cut in top individual tax rates; a cut in corporate taxes; an end to the estate tax; and the creation of a big new loophole that will allow wealthy individuals to pretend that they are small businesses, and get a preferential tax rate. All of these overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy, mainly the top 1 percent.” Laffer is enthusiastic about the plan, since it would lower marginal rates for the economic elite—though Laffer, like most Republicans, denies that the cuts would only benefit the rich. “I think it’s trying to make everyone millionaires, billionaires, and trillionaires,” he told Al Jazeera last month. “This is a plan to get everyone to economic growth and give everyone a shot at the apple.”

    Trump’s tax plan is likely to increase public debt and widen inequality instead. History suggests as much, as do distinguished economists. But such evidence means little to Laffer and the Republican Party. As the late Robert Bartley, a Wall Street Journal editor who was one of Laffer’s biggest promoters, once crowed, “Economists still ridicule the Laffer Curve, but policymakers pay it careful heed.” Whether they do so because they believe Laffer’s theory, or just use it as intellectual cover to cut taxes on the rich, is an open question. But Trump could have an entirely different goal in mind: bringing peace to a fractured party. While Steve Bannon’s insurgent populists challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP establishment, the entire party agrees on cutting taxes for the rich. Supply-side economics is the glue holding Republicans together, for now.

    The rise of supply-side economics on the right is perhaps the first major example of the modern Republican Party’s abandonment of policy expertise and empiricism. As such, it’s a forerunner to climate change denial, birtherism, and other noxious forms of anti-intellectualism in the GOP. The resiliency of Laffer and his ideas shows that the Republican Party’s decay goes much deeper than Trump. It’s easy enough to ridicule the president as an ignoramus, but it’s hardly an accident that he leads a party that has elevated a crank into an intellectual luminary. If the GOP is cynical enough to accept the Laffer Curve for purely political reasons, it can convince itself to accept any policy idea, no matter how ruinous. Laffer’s legacy, then, extends well beyond bad economic policy: He made the Republican Party safe for snake-oil salesmen, not least Trump himself.


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    Trump’s Air War
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    When President Trump decided to commit additional troops to the war in Afghanistan—now entering its seventeenth year—he contradicted his own position on the conflict. After years of deriding the war as a “total disaster” and a “complete waste,” and insisting that it was high time to get out, Trump announced in August that he would instead be deepening America’s involvement. “My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts,” the president told U.S. troops in his address on Afghanistan. “But all my life, I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”

    Despite Trump’s seeming reluctance to engage in foreign conflicts, however, he has zealously embraced his role as a wartime president. Since taking office, Trump has dramatically ramped up the use of U.S. military force in a wide range of international hot spots, from Syria and Iraq to Somalia and Pakistan. Far from being an America First isolationist, Trump has already established himself as one of the most hawkish presidents in modern history.

    Consider Trump’s dramatic increase in the use of air strikes. Through August, the United States dropped 2,487 bombs in Afghanistan—more than Barack Obama dropped in his last two years as president combined. In August, more bombs fell there than in any month since 2012. Trump also dropped the so-called “mother of all bombs,” the largest nonnuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal, on an Islamic State cave complex—the first time the bomb has ever been used in combat.

    Trump has accelerated the pace of air strikes in other conflicts as well. In Iraq and Syria, the American-led coalition has unleashed more bombs each month under Trump than Obama did in any month throughout the entire campaign against ISIS, which began in 2014. In Yemen, Trump has carried out 92 strikes or raids against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—just shy of the number of attacks that Obama oversaw in his entire second term. In Somalia, the United States is carrying out an average of one strike against the jihadist group Al Shabaab every 15 days—a sharp escalation compared to Obama. And in Pakistan, Trump ended a nine-month pause in drone strikes with four unmanned bombings—more than Obama conducted during his final year in office.

    Trump is also putting more boots on the ground. In April, 300 Marines returned to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province to assist in the fight against the Taliban—their first deployment there since 2014. The following month, Trump championed a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia—reversing the Obama administration’s decision to curb the sale of precision-guided munitions to Riyadh out of concern over civilian casualties resulting from the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. And hot on the heels of Trump’s vow to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea over its nuclear provocations, the Air Force is working to replace America’s aging stockpile of 400 Minuteman missiles and develop a new nuclear cruise missile—a project estimated to cost more than $1 trillion.

    Even if Hillary Clinton—or nearly anyone else, for that matter—were commander-in-chief, America would likely be ramping up many of its military operations overseas. Expelling ISIS from its stronghold in Mosul, for example, would have required a significant commitment of airpower from any president. Likewise, by renewing America’s commitment in Afghanistan and overhauling the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Trump is following through on plans that his predecessors set in motion.

    Yet what sets Trump apart, and what is most worrying about his hawkish foreign policy, is that he has put forward no coherent plan to guide his unprecedented use of military force. Far from looking to wind down conflicts, Trump seems to be acting on whatever tough-sounding phrase pops into his head, regardless of its effect in the real world. In Syria and Iraq, Trump has made good on his vow to “bomb the hell out of ISIS.” But with no plan to create security and stability in the region once ISIS is defeated, his military aggression could wind up rekindling sectarian conflict and opening up the United States to armed confrontation with Iran. Similarly, Trump has failed to spell out how many additional troops he will send to Afghanistan, or how long they will stay there. “In the end, we will win,” he declared in August—without offering any indication of what winning actually looks like. To make matters worse, Trump has failed to fill a raft of senior posts in the State Department, hamstringing America’s ability to exercise the diplomatic power necessary to broker peace and foster stability.

    The consequences of Trump’s military aggression can be seen in the number of civilians killed by U.S. air strikes. Since taking office, Trump has overseen nearly 60 percent of all civilian casualties from air strikes in Iraq and Syria since the air war began. In Afghanistan, civilian casualties skyrocketed by 70 percent during the first six months of this year, compared to the same period last year. And in Yemen, Trump’s support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign has exacerbated what has become a staggering humanitarian crisis.

    Trump has repeatedly made clear that his foreign policy is not motivated by a desire to enhance global security—it’s driven by his need to burnish his own image as a winner. “We aren’t winning. We are losing,” Trump reportedly complained to his generals in the weeks leading up to his Afghanistan announcement. It’s telling that his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, apparently helped persuade Trump to remain in Afghanistan by showing him a 1972 photograph of Afghan women in miniskirts—ridiculously suggesting that by sending more troops to fight the Taliban, Trump would be viewed as the hero who ushered in the return of Western norms to Kabul.

    Trump’s emphasis on “winning” on the military front is especially dangerous for a president who has proved to be such a loser in Congress and the courts. With his legislative agenda in disarray and his administration mired in scandal, military action is the only arena where Trump can portray himself as a decisive, powerful leader. Presidents have often resorted to using military strikes overseas as a way of distracting the public from their failures at home: think Ronald Reagan in Grenada or Bill Clinton in the Balkans. But under Trump, these are not discrete, one-off attacks; instead, he has made bombing other countries a routine and defining element of his administration. The more he fails as president, the more Trump will deepen U.S. military involvement around the world—deploying more troops, wasting more tax dollars, and killing more civilians in the process.


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    How Trump Stole the Soul of the Values Voter Summit
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    There is a point during every Values Voter Summit when the unconverted observer fights stupor. The old white men are interchangeable, distinguished only by the different colors of their ties. Even the yearly cameo by Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson makes little impression. The speakers’ cadences are those of the country preacher, and they ramble and gesticulate until the air feels gelatinous and every second holds a century. It can be easy to forget what you are really watching: a gathering that allows the nation’s most dedicated Christian activists to network and strategize. It is an event for the purest of the pure.

    So this year’s spectacle at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., was significant not only because it shook up the usual formula, but also because its most celebrated speakers fell well outside that God-fearing realm. When Donald Trump appeared at the summit on Friday, the first sitting president to do so, the audience howled. They leapt to their feet and applauded with an enthusiasm that was only matched on Saturday, when former White House aides Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon received multiple standing ovations for their own speeches. But these Trumpian additions to the customary lineup of Duck Dynasty stars and pro-life leaders and Michelle Bachmann indicated no discrepancy or compromise. To the contrary, it revealed the ways in which Christian politics and far-right populism have long overlapped.

    This year’s Values Voter Summit possessed specific import: A politically powerful base gathered to redefine itself after a major victory. Senator Ted Cruz may have won the summit’s straw poll for the third time, but on Friday and Saturday Trumpists dominated the proceedings. Thanks to Trump, conservatives have reconquered the federal government. Via Trump, they have put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, rolled back Obama-era health care regulations requiring contraception coverage, and banned transgender people from serving in the military. And all they had to do was make an alliance with the most un-Christian of leaders, who has gleefully mocked those of devout faith, including his own vice president. “America is a nation of believers. And together we are strengthened and sustained by the power of prayer,” Trump declared at the summit, without a trace of irony. “We’re saying Merry Christmas again,” he said, and the crowd yelled “Yes! Yes!” as if it were the first time they had heard that promise.

    Eighty percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, a fact that bewildered some secular onlookers and agitated some Christian dissenters, like the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore. There are differences, certainly, between the Christian piety on display at the summit and the alt-right sympathies of Trump, Bannon, and their cadre. Despite Bannon and Gorka urging the crowd to defend the rights of all Americans regardless of sexual preference, the Values Voter Summit will never welcome gay figures like Milo Yiannopolous or Peter Thiel. Richard Spencer’s atheism would win him no friends in this audience.


    But where the two groups find common ground is in the idea of a pure Western civilization that has come under assault by liberals, foreigners, and the elite. Bannon’s narrative of a clash of civilizations is a reflection of this idea, pitting the Christian West against the Muslim East. Evangelicals, for their part, are perpetually at war with darkness, defending a Judeo-Christian polity from the forces of secularization and the encroachments of other religions, like Islam. In this story, evangelicals are holy warriors, while nefarious agents target beleaguered cake-makers and county clerks to force them to bow to the nefarious LGBT Agenda. They are obsessed with the idea of America being corrupted—if Jesus cleansed the temple, then they will drain the swamp.

    All of this fuels a politics of grievance, whose greatest nemesis is a governing class composed of sell-outs and sinners. Conservative Christians have long understood politics to be a battle between the pure of heart and a malicious establishment. Their pleasure with the Trump administration is not pleasure with the Republican Party at large. For evangelicals, Bannon’s populism only reinforces the villainous nature of their traditional enemies in the Republican Party, the left, and the press.

    When Gorka announced that he and Bannon have “declared war on the RINO class,” that they are “going to take on every swamp dweller” and “celebrate the Judeo-Christian values that America was founded on,” evangelicals in attendance understood him to be a fellow traveler. Bannon engendered the same understanding. “There’s a time and a season for everything,” he declared, paraphrasing Ecclesiastes. “And right now it’s a season of war against the GOP establishment.” Mitch McConnell, Karl Rove, Bob Corker—Bannon railed against them all, to the crowd’s adulation.


    Later, inside the exhibition hall, values voters swarmed Gorka for photos, while right-wing organizations courted supporters. Tradition, Family and Property, a far-right Catholic group, offered a magazine called Crusade; Prince William and Kate Middleton beamed from its cover, unaware that a group promising Christian “counter-revolution” had co-opted their image. Around the corner, Reactionary Times Radio interviewed attendees. Women dressed like modest Rosie the Riveters, in long red skirts, hawked a support group for ex-abortion workers. The mood was upbeat. Michael Jackson blared from the speakers. And attendees told me they were mostly satisfied with Donald Trump.

    “I would not necessarily characterize him as a Christian, but I do think that he has surrounded himself with some good role models,” said Tessa Longbons, age 21. “I think he’s made steps in the right direction. If you talk to a strong Christian like Mike Pence, sometimes that can rub off a little bit.” Most Christians she knows, she added, did not support Trump in the 2016 Republican primary, but this reticence is fading. “They’ve been pleasantly surprised that he has stuck to some of his promises,” she explained.

    Millie March volunteered 500 hours to Trump’s campaign.Sarah Jones

    Travis Weber, director of Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, praised the selection of Neil Gorsuch and said of the administration, “They’ve done a lot of good things on religious liberty. We’re still looking for more to be done in some areas, but for instance, protecting people in terms of conscious objections to abortion-causing drugs, abortion services, health care—that’s something we see as positive development.”

    Twelve-year-old Millie March was more enthusiastic. “It was Trump’s best speech ever,” she announced, and ran off. A Trump doll wagged from her open backpack.

    But for the most part, assessments of Trump’s young administration were superseded by attacks on the religious right’s numerous enemies, which include Planned Parenthood, the Southern Poverty Law Center, George Soros, and, of course, the swamp. In a breakout session hosted by the legislative arm of the American Family Association, AFA Action, the group’s vice president, Rob Chambers, collected my name before the panel began. He then pulled up my New Republic review of Bible Nation—about the pernicious influence of Christian-owned businesses like Hobby Lobby—on his phone and read a portion out loud to the audience. “You may want to go back and read your Constitution,” he told me, before launching into a rant against the swamp that I presumably represent.

    After him, Debbie Wuthnow of iVoterGuide.com set out a methodical plan for victory. “A lot of the blame for the swamp lies with those who have left it there,” she told the crowd. “God worked in this last election because Christians turned out to vote. If they turn out to vote in the primaries they can drain the swamp.” To help voters weed out swamp creatures, Wuthnow’s guide asks candidates detailed questions about their doctrinal positions—is man naturally sinful, for example. “They’re coming to you interviewing for a job,” she said of candidates. Her audience listened, rapt. Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project followed her, and urged “the deconstruction of the administrative state.” He took the phrase from Steve Bannon.

    At the heart of this drive for purity, and the overweening resentment it produces, is not Christian spirituality, but a fear of being eclipsed by people who are not like them—a fear of replacement. The underlying similarities with the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville—those who chanted, “You will not replace us”—are hard to ignore.

    The old disagreements feel distant now. Trump belongs to the religious right, and it belongs to him. And what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.


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    The Impeachment Litmus Test Is Dividing Democrats
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    Tom Steyer has his own litmus test for Democrats. The billionaire environmentalist and major donor from California called last week for his party’s lawmakers and candidates to pledge to impeach Donald Trump. A “clear and present danger to the republic,” Trump should be removed from office over his “relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia,” allegations that Trump used the presidency to “promote his own business interests,” and his “seeming determination to go to war,” Steyer wrote in a letter to Democratic campaign committees and members of Congress, according to The New York Times. He left no ambiguity: “I am asking you today to make public your position on the impeachment of Donald Trump and call for his removal from office.”

    Steyer’s move is noteworthy not just for its audaciousness, but its timing. Earlier this year, it seemed every day brought a new bombshell about the Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia and the president’s efforts to obstruct the investigation. But it’s now been five months since the president fired FBI Director James Comey, over which time special counsel Robert Mueller has been working the Russia investigation behind closed doors. As a result, the tempo has dropped in the impeachment drumbeat.

    Yes, Representative Maxine Waters is still pushing the issue. “Republicans should step up to the plate and confront the fact that this president appears to be unstable,” Waters said last Thursday. “I believe that really has been collusion [with the Russians], and I do think that Special Counsel Mueller is going to connect those dots. But I think there’s enough now that we all know ... that we should be moving on impeachment.” And a day prior, Representative Al Green of Texas read articles of impeachment on the House floor. But consider the response from Green’s colleagues: The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis reports that “party leaders had prevailed upon Green not to offer the resolution and thus force his colleagues to cast a potentially troublesome vote.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has sought to tamp down talk of impeachment all year, saying Mueller’s investigation should run its course. Asked in May about Democrats’ calls for impeachment, she said, “Again, you’re talking about impeachment, you’re talking about what are the facts?.... What are the rules he may have violated? If you don’t have that case, you’re just participating in more hearsay.”

    Instead of getting ahead of Mueller, Democrats like Pelosi have focused on more immediate threats to progressive achievements, like Trump’s sabotage of Obamacare and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). These party leaders believe focusing on impeachment while Republicans control Congress is impractical or even counterproductive. Advocates of an impeachment push, meanwhile, see it as a moral imperative and wise strategy, providing the starkest possible contrast between the Democratic opposition and the Republicans in power. “It’s time to step up and do the right thing, not do political polling and figure out what’s the smart thing to do for the next election cycle,” Steyer told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes last week.

    Yet Steyer’s impeachment litmus test isn’t being received well by some Democrats on the campaign trail. “If you say all Democrats have to do this, I just don’t think that’s right for our country,” said Amy McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot running in Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District. “We’re not in power,” she added. “It ain’t going to happen. So it doesn’t do anything other than polarize us even more.”


    “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history,” said Gerald Ford, then the House minority leader, in 1970. The Republican Party almost certainly won’t remove Trump from power before the midterm elections next fall, but Democrats are on firm ground calling for the GOP to do so. Scholars are building a case against Trump based on obstruction of justice, conflicts of interest, and corruption, but as Slate’s Jacob Weisberg wrote back in May, the constitutional phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” may well cover “a much wider range of presidential abuses.” Veteran Washington journalist Elizabeth Drew, author of a book on Watergate, made a similar point last week. “A president can be held accountable for actions that aren’t necessarily crimes. A crime might be an impeachable offense—but not all impeachable offenses are crimes,” she wrote at The Daily Beast. “Impeachment isn’t a process by which an established set of principles is enforced. There’s no tablet to be taken down from on high and followed; there’s no code of offenses for which a president can be charged. There are precedents, but they’re not binding, which is a good thing.”

    This is why Waters and others believe Democrats can start “moving on impeachment” right now. A majority of Democrats agree: A Public Religion Research Institute poll in August found 72 percent of them favor impeachment. Even some Republicans on Capitol Hill are speaking out about Trump’s unfitness for office. But campaigning on impeachment is not without pitfalls. While energizing the Democratic base, it might be seen as premature or impractical by more moderate voters, especially independents whom Democratic candidates will need in order to win in swing or conservative-leaning districts. That doesn’t worry Randy Bryce, the Wisconsin union ironworker running to unseat Speaker Paul Ryan. “I think it’s great,” he said of Steyer’s position. “It’s time for Democrats to be Democrats.” Asked about party leaders who’ve shied away from impeachment talk, he said, “I’d love to see every Democrat call for it.” (Bryce’s primary opponent, Cathy Myers, is also backing impeachment, saying in a statement on Monday, “Trump is clearly unfit for the office he holds and poses an immediate threat to the safety and security of this country and the world.”)

    McGrath takes a different view, telling me that Democrats should wait for Mueller to finish his probe. “If what comes out is an impeachable offense, then I have no problem calling for impeachment,” she said. McGrath acknowledged that backing Trump’s ouster now “would probably please many people in my own party, and given that I have a primary, maybe that would help me. But I personally don’t think it’s the right thing to do.” Democratic strategist Stan Greenberg called a litmus test “a terrible idea,” adding, “I think ultimately Mueller will find obstruction of justice, but I think there’s a process for that.” Markos Moulitsas, founder and publisher of the progressive blog Daily Kos, agreed. “It would be a disaster,” he said.Republican intensity is down. They hate Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and love Donald Trump. If we make 2018 about the Republican Congress, we win. If we make it about Donald Trump in anything but the most targeted communications, we turn out Republican voters who right now really would rather stay home.”

    “As we learned in 2016, running around with our hair on fire doesn’t do the Democratic Party any favors,” said strategist Lis Smith. “In fact, you can make an argument that it actually helped Donald Trump. The louder we yelled about how outrageous he was, the more the interests and voices of regular people were drowned out. While impeachment is a tantalizing fantasy for many Democrats, it remains a fantasy. Every second we spend talking about impeachment is a second we’re not talking about jobs or how we can lift people’s wages.” For now, Smith said, impeachment “seems like more of a donor issues than voter issue. While I have no doubt you can reel in some big donors and even some grassroots money with impeachment.... It just doesn’t touch people’s lives.”

    Bryce, perhaps sensitive to this critique, said the issue is “not going to be on the front-burner” of his campaign. “It’s something I believe in, but I’m not running to cast a vote in order to impeach Trump,” he said. He’s conscious that Republicans could try to tie Democrats to their impeachment stances and distract from issues like health care, yet he ultimately shrugged off that concern. “They don’t want to talk about how horrible their policies are, so they’re going to try to throw smoke over what they’re not doing,” he said. Asked whether advocating impeachment was risky in a swing district like his, Bryce was especially adamant: “People have had it with Donald Trump in this district. There is complete buyer’s remorse.”

    Nationally, support for Trump’s impeachment is growing, even if it’s still a minority view. “The polling supporting impeachment proceedings moving forward is far higher than it ever was during the Watergate period,” said John Bonifaz, co-founder and president of Free Speech For People, which is leading the “Impeach Trump Now” campaign. “We agree fully that all members of Congress who have taken an oath to the Constitution should be on the record.... I do not believe that those who claim to be engaged in defending the Constitution can consistently take that oath and not engage in seeking impeachment.”

    Steyer doesn’t just consider it his moral duty to push for impeachment; he believes our collective security might depend on removing Trump. When Hayes asked if Steyer could imagine Trump being impeached before the midterms, Steyer replied, “I don’t believe we can stand pat for 14 months, cross our fingers, cross our toes, and hope like heck that the world’s going to be okay. The fact of the matter is, we are in grave danger, and it is time for us to act, not to sit there and hope it turns out okay because that works for us politically.” On this point—the “grave danger” Trump poses to the world—McGrath is in agreement with Steyer. The nuclear issue is my biggest concern with the current president,” she said. “We don’t have any mechanism in our country to stop any kind of rogue president, and I wish we did.”

    While there’s no mechanism to stop Trump from ordering a nuclear attack, there is one for removing him from office. If Democrats win back the House of Representatives, they can begin impeachment proceedings. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they should campaign on impeachment. In the end, candidates should employ whatever politics best helps the party get there.


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    The Alt-Right Doesn’t Know What to Do With White Women
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    In a basement conference room in the Ronald Reagan Center in Washington, D.C., on November 19, 2016, following one of the first alt-right press conferences after the 2016 election, F. Roger Devlin (the “F” stands for Francis) took to the stage with a curious tale about Norwegian women. Their “lizard brains,” he said, were causing them to abandon Norwegian men for Pakistani immigrants, causing a crisis in heterosexual relations among Norwegian whites.

    It was familiar territory for Devlin. Devlin is not a household name the way other white nationalist leaders like Richard Spencer are, and he certainly lacks the pomp of some of the far-right’s bombastic hangers-on, such as Milo Yiannopoulos. Yet the self-described “independent scholar” is a major voice on the alt-right, and has been critical in shaping the movement’s understanding of gender, marriage, and the place of white women among its ranks. He is a longtime contributor to far-right publications including The Occidental Quarterly, VDARE, and Counter-Currents. Like many on the intellectual wing of the alt-right, he has mainstream credentials, namely a doctorate in political philosophy from Tulane. But as his work veered right, he began to fancy himself a dissident. In light of the rise in mainstream media attention toward the alt-right movement and women’s role in it, Devlin’s work sheds a great deal of light on a question of what today’s white nationalists think of women’s place in society.

    As Seyward Darby explained in her September cover story for Harper’s on women in the alt-right, there are those within the movement who are consciously pushing for increased female involvement—through YouTube channels, blogging, social media, and even presentations at movement conferences. It’s a big shift, given the oft-noted lack of female leadership in the alt-right. Some white nationalist authors have been quick to acknowledge the need for change. “There aren’t enough women who publicly align with the Alt Right at present in order for the newly awoken to find that new community,” the female white nationalist writer Wolfie James wrote in Counter-Currents. “A man can thrive as a lone wolf, but a woman will wither from loneliness.” Women’s inclusion, in other words, is crucial to the movement’s recruitment strategy going forward. But the far right’s gender politics are being shaped by Devlin and his ilk, and their vision for an ethnically cleansed future is hostile to female power. The result is that a conflict is brewing between what the alt-right knows it needs to do—recruit more white women—and the way it envisions the world it wants to build.

    Although Devlin has been a presence in white nationalist circles for some time, it was his 2006 essay for The Occidental Quarterly, “Sexual Utopia in Power,” that garnered him fame in both the “manosphere” (the loose network of blogs, chatrooms, and forums run by MRAs) and the white nationalist community. He is credited with coining the term “hypergamy”—the practice of women “marrying up” in terms of class, sexual prowess, or societal status, which Devlin asserts is a foundational part of the feminist vision of sexual liberation. Charlotte Allen, a writer and fellow at the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, wrote in a 2010 Weekly Standard article that Devlin “deftly uses theories of evolutionary psychology” in his work, but that his “writing about the feminist and sexual revolutions frequently shades from the refreshingly politically incorrect into the disturbingly punitive.”

    Devlin may have been “deft” and “refreshing” to Allen, but his theories are mostly regurgitations of the claims men’s rights advocates have made for decades. Like those who decry “gynocentrism”—a world in which women’s rights are at the fore—Devlin argues that the sexual revolution has transformed women into the dominant sex. The death of monogamy and the modern woman’s freedom to have multiple partners throughout her lifetime has left the majority of men behind, he says, creating a situation of “loneliness for the majority” of men while ensuring a “double standard [that] favors women.” Indeed, “in the feminist formulation, [it’s] freedom for women, responsibility for men.” These responsibilities, as Devlin outlines them, are manifold: It’s men, not women, who have traditionally died in wars. It’s men, not women, Devlin claims, who are the economic benefactors for their children—even if those men aren’t granted custody rights, as Devlin is quick to decry. And it’s men, not women, he says, who “have been the builders, sustainers, and defenders of civilization.”  

    To Devlin, the questions of a women’s role in the world and their role in sex relationships, are inseparable from what he refers to as the feminist ideology. As scholar Christa Hodapp observes in her book Men’s Rights, Gender, and Social Media, he views feminism as an “unhinged bratty sister” and a “threat motivated and furthered . . . by a desire for power.” Men shouldn’t do a woman’s bidding, Devlin says. In fact, “it is a woman’s responsibility to prove she is worthy of the privilege” of submitting to a man and bearing his children.


    The question that’s arising is what will become of the tension between a need for female involvement in the far-right, as asserted by James, and the ideas pushed by the alt-right’s more aggressively sexist figures such as Devlin. The answer rests largely on what becomes of the ties between the alt-right and the men’s rights movement, two amorphous and symbiotic sectors that have enjoyed increasing power and notoriety in the age of Trump. The MRA-to-white nationalist pipeline is well-documented—people who become intrigued by one ideology frequently become devotees of the other. But different strains of the far right have different visions, and their ambitions can clash.

    As Angela Nagle noted in Jacobin earlier this year, there has already been tension on the right between the moralist conservatism that “aims for a return to traditional marriage while disapproving of porn and promiscuity,” and the “libertine internet culture from which all the real energy has emerged.” Devlin, like other MRAs, takes the notion of gender separation based on “biological” difference even further than the traditionalists, advocating that men look abroad  (e.g., to Eastern Europe) for more subservient women, and push for a complete upheaval of the traditionalist understanding of marriage as entailing male obligations. Under his view, traditionalist visions of heterosexual marriage did not oppress women enough. He opts instead for a vision of absolute female servility. Part of this argument is economic: he claims in his essay “Home Economics,” that most marriages today are premised on the idea that “a woman marries a meal ticket; a man marries trouble and expense.” He calls on men to abandon the “chivalrous pretense” underlying marriage and shake off their traditional economic responsibilities. Even in the company of reactionaries, this exhortation can come with its own baggage, especially given the urgency with which the alt-right speaks of “white extinction.” The possibility of abandoning financial support for white women and their white babies comes with its own wealth of contradictions in an ideology dedicated to preserving whiteness and white supremacy.

    The growing female presence in the white-nationalist and broader alt-right circles has encouraged some to relinquish these Devlinesque appeals. But as Darby explained in Harper’s, while white nationalist movements that explicitly exclude women from their ranks have been renounced—however feebly—the efforts to nurture women’s leadership roles in the alt-right has met resistance. “The movement can consider incorporating women without being feminized or co-opted,” pleaded Wolfie James in Counter-Currents. For one, she says, women are crucial in a “Fourteen Words context”—a reference to the white supremacist slogan “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” No white women means no white children, and by extension no more white men. Even Devlin concedes this point, explaining that “without children, the race has no future, and without women men cannot have children.” Women have to be a part of the movement, the alt right concedes. What is up for debate is the extent of their involvement.

    For ideologues like Devlin who have based their careers in the alt right on the demonization of women, this question poses a challenge. As he whined in “Sexual Utopia in Power,” “Western women [have] become the new ‘white man’s burden.’” At the 2016 NPI conference where he fretted over the fate of straight white men in Norway, he suggested that white men adopt “a policy of writing off women who take up with their swarthy oppressors.” In other words, white men should decline sex with women who have slept with non-whites. Such a move would be “eugenic,” he says, as it “[flushes] disloyalty from our gene pool.” But Devlin doesn’t have a high opinion of any women, whether they are white or not, whether they’ve slept with men of color or not. Who, then, are the women suitable for right-wing leadership roles in his eyes? If the alt-right’s recent history is any indication, that question is unlikely to go away quietly.


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    The Democrats’ Dianne Feinstein Problem
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    In 2006, anti-war progressive Ned Lamont defeated Joe Lieberman in Connecticut’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Lieberman promptly started a “Connecticut for Lieberman” party and ran as its nominee in the general election, creating a headache for Democrats: Should they support a colleague, or a challenger who best represents the political moment? Senators including Barack Obama and Barbara Boxer sided with Lieberman during the primary, then endorsed Lamont in the general election; others stuck with the third-party Lieberman throughout. After defeating Lamont by 114,000 votes and earning a post-election standing ovation from the Democratic caucus, Lieberman became a thorn in the side of liberals for the rest of his tenure.

    Ned Lamont, meet Kevin de León.

    The 50-year-old president of the California state Senate last week announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate against longtime Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is 84. Like Lieberman, Feinstein occupies the right flank of the Democratic Party, even more so in an era of resistance and progressive resurgence. California’s kooky electoral rules make it likely that Feinstein will face de León in a general election matchup, with similar dynamics to Lieberman vs. Lamont. And every Democrat in the Senate, at a time when they are striving to win back the chamber, will have to answer: Do you support a colleague, or the challenger who best represents the political moment?


    De León led the California Senate in a year when practically every political move in the deep-blue state was an act of resistance against Donald Trump. The legislature increased the gas tax to fund infrastructure improvements. They renewed the cap-and-trade system to fight climate change. They made California a sanctuary state, blocking state law enforcement from cooperating with federal authorities on deportation. The Senate passed a single-payer health care bill, which the Assembly then shelved. (A cynic would say de León engineered the passage of a thin bill that he knew the Assembly wouldn’t accept, to burnish his credentials among the progressive base.)

    De León isn’t exactly the Bernie Sanders of the West Coast. He endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2008 and 2016, and his candidacy may stem as much from being termed out of the legislature and not having another seat to fill than any burning desire to oust Feinstein. However, de León has a compelling personal story—the child of a low-income, single, immigrant mother, he’s a former student and labor organizer, and would be the state’s first Latino senator in history. Compared to an incumbent who has spent 25 years alternately disappointing and antagonizing liberals, he represents a major step forward.

    Feinstein’s political instincts were apparent when she loudly supported the death penalty at the 1990 state party convention, drawing a chorus of boos—which she subsequently used in campaign ads to prove her distance from the liberal base. Perhaps no Democrat in the past two decades has been as committed to expanding the national security state than Feinstein (again, like Lieberman). On domestic policy, she supported the Bush tax cuts, permanent normal trade relations with China, and the bill that repealed Glass-Steagall’s financial reforms. While strong on gun safety, women’s rights and the environment, Feinstein has openly courted the center and rejected the left since coming to Washington. Just this year, she told the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco that Donald Trump could mature into a “good president.”

    De León appears to be Feinstein’s first true primary threat since she became a senator. But in California’s election system, all primary candidates appear on the same ballot, regardless of party, and the top two vote-getters advance to the general election. Because Republicans barely have a pulse in California, Feinstein and de León may well face off in November—just as two Democrats did in the state’s 2016 Senate race. Billionaire Tom Steyer is considering running, but de León’s experience and base in vote-rich southern California makes him more likely to get into the top two. (Also, Steyer and de León are very close, and I don’t see how both run.)

    For Feinstein’s Senate colleagues, which include several potential 2020 presidential nominees, that turns this race from an easily parried question (“I’ll support the will of California Democrats”) to a year-long nuisance, if not for longer. De León is clearly closer to where the party has been moving, but Feinstein works with Senate Democrats every day and has probably given money or advice to all of them in the past. Potential 2020 candidates don’t want to anger a chunk of young, energetic supporters by backing Feinstein, but they also don’t want to anger the state party establishment (or its rich donors).

    Senator Kamala Harris sent out a fundraising email on Feinstein’s behalf last week. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a dark-horse 2020 hopeful, held a re-election event for Feinstein. Garcetti and Feinstein share a consultant, Bill Carrick, a major fixer in California politics. Carrick will surely try to lock up as many endorsements and big donors as possible early, denying critical oxygen to de León, who’s relatively unknown in a state that doesn’t pay much attention to its legislature. You might even see open threats to potential de León supporters to line up with Feinstein or get effectively blackballed from state politics. And whereas Ned Lamont could meet a large chunk of Connecticut voters in person, that’s impossible in California with its 39 million residents.

    Feinstein will also have a formidable war chest and ability to self-fund. Like Lieberman, she’ll have a built-in advantage in a statewide matchup against a challenger to her left; right-leaning independents and Republicans could become a rare swing vote in a general election. If things get close, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Feinstein slam De León for raising the gas tax.


    Party stalwarts I’ve spoken to in recent days worry that the attention and money spent on this intraparty fight will crowd out seven winnable House races that are critical to Democrats’ attempt to take back Congress. De León supporters respond that a young Latino challenge at the top of the ticket will draw out voters who don’t normally participate in midterm elections, swamping Republicans statewide.

    Neither point has much data behind it. The Lamont-Lieberman fight didn’t stop Democrats from taking back Congress in 2006, including picking up two House seats in Connecticut. Loretta Sanchez ran for Senate in California in 2016 and didn’t even beat Kamala Harris among Latinos; any boost in turnout would be hard to separate from the wave of anti-Trump sentiment in the state.

    The more interesting question is how national Democratic leaders respond. Progressives are likely to make the Feinstein–de León race into a litmus test, as well they should. Feinstein is clearly too conservative to represent one of the nation’s most liberal states. If Democrats who want to lead the party end up siding with her, they do so at their peril.


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    Is Donald Trump Installing a Mole in the Mueller Probe?
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    On September 28, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved on a party line vote the nomination of Brian Benczkowski to be the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division. The vote put President Donald Trump one step closer to installing a potential mole at the department, with the ability to inform him of any wiretaps or significant developments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury investigation into the possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

    During the committee hearing, Democrats cited a number of reasons to oppose Benczkowski, who was a top aide to Attorney General Jeff Sessions when the former senator ran the Judiciary Committee. Senator Dianne Feinstein noted that Benczkowski, a partner at the firm Kirkland & Ellis, has no prosecutorial experience and almost no experience in a courtroom. Senator Dick Durbin and others argued that he showed “really poor judgment” when he chose to represent Alfa Bank, which has been implicated in the Russia scandal, between his stint on Trump’s transition team and his June nomination to be assistant attorney general. (Alfa Bank came under suspicion after it was discovered that one of its servers had communicated with a server tied to the Trump Organization.)

    Senator Sheldon Whitehouse raised a more specific concern: that Benczkowski might serve as “a back channel source of information” from Mueller’s special counsel investigation to Sessions, who has recused himself from the case. Whitehouse and others fear that having Benczkowski as the head of the criminal division could effectively breach the recusal. But there may be a still bigger risk: Benczkowski could share information about wiretaps and proceedings from the grand jury directly with the president.

    The cause for concern comes from an old Department of Justice interpretation of the PATRIOT Act. Along with expanding surveillance authorities, the PATRIOT Act permitted any government lawyer to share national security-related grand jury or wiretap information with any government official as long as it would help them perform their job better. The measure was passed in response to the September 11 attacks, with an eye to sharing counterterrorism information more broadly. But the authorization of such sharing explicitly extended to “clandestine intelligence activities by an intelligence service or network of a foreign power or by an agent of foreign power”—precisely the kind of nation-state spying at the heart of the Russian investigation.

    A July 22, 2002, memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, written by Jay Bybee, the author of the infamous torture memos, held that, under the statute, the president could get grand jury information without the usual notice to the district court. It also found that the president could delegate such sharing without requiring a written order that would memorialize the delegation.


    Bybee’s memo relies on and reaffirms several earlier memos. It specifically approves two rationales for sharing grand jury information with the president that would be applicable to the Russian investigation. A 1997 memo imagined that the president might get grand jury information “in a case where the integrity or loyalty of a presidential appointee holding an important and sensitive post was implicated by the grand jury investigation.” And a 2000 memo imagined that the president might need to “obtain grand jury information relevant to the exercise of his pardon authority.”

    If you set aside Trump’s own role in obstructing the investigation—including the firing of former FBI Director James Comey—these rationales are defensible in certain cases. In fact, the Justice Department has already shared information (though not from a grand jury) with the White House for one of these very reasons. In January, acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned White House Counsel Don McGahn that Russians might be able to blackmail then-National Security Advisor Mike Flynn. As Yates explained in her congressional testimony in May, after Flynn’s interview with the FBI, “We felt that it was important to get this information to the White House as quickly as possible.” She shared it so the White House could consider firing Flynn: “I remember that Mr. McGahn asked me whether or not General Flynn should be fired, and I told him that that really wasn’t our call, that was up to them, but that we were giving them this information so that they could take action.”

    A similar situation might occur now that the investigation has moved to a grand jury investigation, if someone remaining in the White House—the most likely candidate is the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner—were found to be compromised by Russian intelligence. In Kushner’s case, there are clear hints that he has been compromised, such as when he asked to set up a back channel with the Russians during the transition.

    If Trump were to rely on the memo, he might order a Justice Department lawyer to tell him what evidence Mueller had against Kushner, or whether Mike Flynn or former campaign manager Paul Manafort were preparing to cooperate with Mueller’s prosecutors if they didn’t get an immediate pardon. Unlike Yates, Trump would have an incentive to use such information to undercut the investigation into Russia’s meddling.

    The special counsel’s office declined to comment for this article.

    The 2002 memo generally supports the notion that the attorney general should decide whether the president needs to see a particular piece of information. But it also envisions the possibility that lawyers further down the hierarchy might make that decision—including the position Benczkowski has been nominated to fill. “An attorney for the government may include [in addition to the people actually prosecuting a case] other federal officials within the Department of Justice who gain access to the information under Rule 6(e)(3)(A)(i) in the performance of their law enforcement duties (e.g., the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division …)”

    Furthermore, it asserts that the president may delegate the authority for deciding what grand jury information he might need to know to someone besides the attorney general. And the memo cites an old opinion from the Iran-Contra scandal to argue that the president doesn’t have to memorialize any such delegations in writing. “Such a directive may be set forth in a formal executive order, in a less formal presidential memorandum, … or pursuant to an oral instruction from the President to the Attorney General or other appropriate officials.” So Trump could order someone to share information without leaving a paper trail.

    The risk that Trump might use this memo to spy on Mueller’s investigation has always existed. But it was limited because the Justice Department lawyers with visibility into the investigation—notably Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and acting national security division head Dana Boente—are career prosecutors unlikely to share such information. While Benczkowski did hold a series of senior positions at Justice during the George W. Bush administration, he is fundamentally a political appointee who even worked in the Trump transition team.


    The Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee all seemed to expect that Benczkowski, in the normal course of affairs, would be consulted in matters affecting Mueller’s investigation. Senator Patrick Leahy scoffed at the September hearing, “There is no way in God’s green earth that if Mr. Mueller is coming up with prosecutions into the Russian hacking, or into even the banks or anything else, that the Justice Department’s not also gonna look at that to make sure, ‘Are there other things we need to be prosecuting?’”

    Benczkowski’s close ties to Sessions and his involvement in the transition should be enough to require his recusal from all matters involved in this investigation. That’s before you factor in the possibility that Alfa Bank may play a role in the probe. Still, as Feinstein noted in the hearing, Benczkowski has refused to pledge to recuse himself from the Russian investigation on three different occasions during his confirmation process. Beyond his work for Alfa Bank, Benczkowski said, “the ethics rules do not require a recusal in those circumstances.”

    Benczkowski has promised an ethical approach. “If I am confirmed and a matter comes before me in the criminal division where I believe recusal might be warranted,” Benczkowski explained, “I will review the law and the specific facts, consult with career ethics officials at the department, and recuse myself from any matter where such a recusal is appropriate.”

    Benczkowski also promised to adhere to rules, written while he worked with the Bush-era Attorney General Michael Mukasey, limiting contact between the White House and the Department of Justice. “I understand those rules, and I will abide by them,”  he said in his July confirmation hearing, “largely because I helped write them and I’ve helped enforce them.”

    However, despite these statements, Benczkowski’s nomination remains a risk, partly because there is a lot of murkiness surrounding recusals in the first place. Despite three requests from Whitehouse and Senator Lindsey Graham, the Justice Department still refuses to explain the details of Sessions’s own recusal and to specify who else has access to the investigation. “I have asked Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein repeatedly to explain who at the Department of Justice has access to special counsel Mueller’s investigation,” Senator Whitehouse said in statement. “The only response I’ve received is that the special counsel ‘communicates directly with relevant Department components in the exercise of its responsibilities.’”

    None of these concerns have slowed Benczkowski’s path to the Justice Department, where he could very well serve as Trump’s grand jury mole if he is confirmed by the full Senate. Even the Republicans on the Justice Committee most sincerely concerned about the integrity of the Russian investigation, like Graham, voted to support Benczkowski’s confirmation.

    Which is why, at the very least, the Justice Department has to finally explain how it is ensuring the independence of Mueller’s investigation. “We must understand what boundaries protect Mr. Benczkowski from becoming a backchannel source on the special counsel investigation to the recused attorney general or the White House,” Whitehouse insisted. “So far, we have not and that is very troubling.”


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    Should We Rebuild Homes in Wildfire Zones?
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    If Northern California’s famous wineries could survive Prohibition, there’s no doubt they’ll make it through this year’s wildfires. That’s the attitude of Michael Honig, chairman of the Napa Valley Vintners trade association, who told New England Cable News this week that the 14 wineries damaged or destroyed by the ongoing blazes would not only rebuild, but come back stronger. “This is a short-term setback,” he said.

    It may take some time, but other Californians will eventually adopt Honig’s determination to reconstruct the thousands of structures lost to the ongoing blazes, which are the deadliest and most destructive in state history. Real estate journalist and investor Brad Inman is sure of it. “As a journalist, [I’ve written] stories about post-disaster rebuilding in places like Oakland and San Francisco after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake; Los Angeles after the 1994 Northridge earthquake; and visited Phuket after the 2004 Tsunami in Thailand,” he wrote this week. “I was always struck by people’s fierce will to rebuild.” Not long after the historic Oakland hills firestorm in 1991 destroyed 3,500 homes, families started to put their neighborhood back together, Inman recalled. Eventually, they created an even better Oakland hills—one with higher property values and better public works.

    This is an understandable response. People displaced by fires need new homes, of course, and naturally they would do it on the land they still own. And insurance policies usually provide the means to do so. But our planet is different today, as is our understanding of what constitutes smart, sustainable development. Wildfires are wreaking more havoc; California’s ten most destructive wildfires on record have all occurred in the last 30 years. That’s partly just because there’s more stuff to burn: more structures, more cars, more people. But it’s also because of human-caused climate change, which makes it more likely that wildfires burn longer and stronger.

    So just as we grapple with questions about rebuilding in flood zones as the sea level rises, we must grapple with rebuilding in wildfire-prone zones. Is it sensible reconstructing an entire community that could just burn down again? Is it worth the public cost, and at the risk of more firefighters’ lives? If so, can we build in a way that decreases the risk of catastrophic damage?

    These questions extend not just to those homes destroyed by the Northern California wildfires, but to developers across the country who are choosing to build in high-risk zones. Sixty percent of new homes built in the U.S. since 1990 have been constructed in areas that adjacent to fire-prone public lands, and this is forecasted to continue, according to an analysis by Montana-based Headwaters Economics. Kelly Pohl, a researcher at Headwaters, says now’s the time to pressure developers to halt this trend—or, at least, to start using smart land-use strategies to reduce risk.

    “We have to honor and recognize that this has been a really tragic fire season for lots of communities across the country. We’re talking about real people with memories, communities, and experiences that have been severely impacted by these fires,” she said. “But people’s memories are short, and we have an opportunity to learn from this.”


    Americans in general, and Republicans in particular, hold almost as much reverence for private property as they do for the inalienable rights granted by the Constitution. Dictating where and how people build their homes—or even questioning it—invites immediate backlash. But some conservatives feel that there should be a price, or standard, for people whose personal decisions are more likely to cost taxpayers. “Anybody ought to be able to live wherever they want to live,” former FEMA Administrator Michael D. Brown, now a prominent conservative radio host, told me after Hurricane Irma destroyed seawalls and flooded homes in Florida. “I’m just saying taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize your choice.”

    And taxpayers across the country do subsidize decisions to build in wildfire-prone areas. The U.S. Forest Service increasingly spends more of its budget on firefighting—from 13 percent in 1995 to 50 percent in 2015, according to Curbed. According to a Headwaters analysis, wildfire protection and suppression annually costs the government approximately $3 billion, which is equal to half of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the entire Environmental Protection Agency.

    Those costs are expected to rise with climate change, and not just in places like California, Oregon, and Montana. Wildfires destroyed more than 100 homes in Tennessee last year, and this year in Florida, wildfires forced thousands to evacuate. More than 4,000 communities across the country are prone to 100-plus acre wildfires, according to Headwaters.

    Each dot represents a community threatened by one or more 100-acre wildfires between 2000-2014.Courtesy of Headwaters Economics

    Property owners and communities also have to consider the monetary risk that wildfires pose to themselves, and not just the immediate damage caused by fire. “Communities bear long-term costs from wildfires over years because of lost business revenue, depreciating property value, and the long-term mental health consequences of living through a disaster like that,” Pohl said. The mental health impacts should not be understated. “Have you been around a wildfire before?” Pohl asked. “It’s dark as night. The sun is an orange ball. There’s ash and debris and embers raining down. It feels like the end of the world. It’s a life-altering experience.”

    Still, the U.S. Forest Service expects population growth in wildfire-prone areas to continue. It estimates that there are approximately 45 million homes in the so-called “Wildland-Urban Interface”—the technical term for those in particularly vulnerable areas—and that the number will rise another 40 percent by 2030. WUI makes up 9 percent of the contiguous U.S., from Colorado’s Front Range to Southeast Texas to the Great Lakes states, and according to Headwaters, 84 percent of it remains undeveloped. So it’s unlikely and perhaps unreasonable that local governments would outright forbid development in all of these areas.

    But there’s a lot that federal, state, and local governments can do to mitigate risk. “One of the strategies that we’re working with communities all over the country right now is developing land use regulations on how to reduce risk,” Pohl said, noting that a lot of the responsibility lies with state and local governments, which control zoning regulations. Communities at risk could require fire-resistant building materials like concrete, stone, glass, and brick; prohibit buildings on steep slopes, where fires move faster than on flat land; enforce a minimum distance between homes, since dense housing serves as better fuel for flames; require homeowners to plant only certain types of vegetation that doesn’t easily dry out and catch fire.

    Federally, Trump could increase the Forest Service’s budget for wildfire prevention measures, like clearing dry brush and doing controlled burns. Trump could also create national codes and standards for building in the wildland-urban interface, as climate reporter Andy Revkin recommended in 2013 that President Barack Obama do. Those standards could be looser or tighter depending on level of hazard.

    These questions, understandably, are not at the forefront of people’s minds in Northern California right now. Many residents are grieving, and many more are just beginning a difficult, years-long effort to rebuild what they lost. “This is my home. I’m going to come back without question,” Howard Lasker, a Santa Rosa resident who lost his home, told the Associated Press. “I have to rebuild. I want to rebuild.” That’s exactly why local and federal officials must consider these questions right now—to enact smart policy before the next massive wildfires strikes.


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    How GOP Lawmakers Ignore the Will of the People
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    During Barack Obama’s two terms in office, Democrats lost ground at the state level—a lot of ground. Republicans now dominate state legislatures to a greater degree than at any time since the Civil War, making it nearly impossible for Democrats to enact any meaningful policies in large swaths of the country. But in the midst of last year’s electoral wipeout, there was one bright spot: Citizens took the law into their own hands, introducing 71 ballot initiatives in 16 states—the most in a decade.

    In Maine, citizens used ballot initiatives to increase the minimum wage and tax the rich to fund public schools. In South Dakota, they pushed through campaign finance reforms and restrictions on lobbying, as well as a system to create public funding for political campaigns. In Oklahoma, they reined in the War on Drugs, reclassifying nearly all felony drug possession charges as misdemeanors. And in Nevada, they mandated background checks for gun sales. In each case, citizens used ballot initiatives as a tool for direct democracy, using majority rule to push through policies that lawmakers are unable or unwilling to enact themselves.

    But such victories have proved short-lived. Republican legislatures responded to the surge in civic participation by using their power to effectively overrule the will of the people—and to make it harder to enact citizen-backed reforms in the future. In South Dakota, state lawmakers simply repealed the voter-approved limits on campaign contributions and lobbying. In Maine, the state legislature threw out the voter-approved tax on the rich, and amended the minimum wage increase to exclude workers who receive tips. The state’s GOP governor, Paul LePage, boasted that there is nothing to prevent lawmakers from tossing out any ballot initiative they dislike. “If you read the constitution,” he crowed, “the legislature can just ignore it.”

    It’s true that in twelve states, including Maine, there are no restrictions against such “legislative tampering” with citizen initiatives. And there are sometimes good reasons for lawmakers to make adjustments to ballot measures, especially if voters use them to infringe upon the constitutional rights of minorities. Ballot initiatives aren’t exclusively progressive tools, after all. In the early 2000s, conservatives used them to ban same-sex marriage in a number of states.

    But the principle of direct democracy is a hallmark of the U.S. political system, stemming from the earliest days of the country. Ballot initiatives picked up steam during the Progressive Era, as a means for voters to push through reforms in the face of inept and intransigent politicians. South Dakota became the first state to adopt a statewide initiative process in 1898, and many others soon followed.

    Veteran political observers say that the current conservative backlash against ballot initiatives is particularly extreme. “This stands out in recent history as one of the most brash years we’ve seen in the response by legislatures,” says Josh Altic, a project director at Ballotpedia, an organization that tracks ballot initiatives. And while state lawmakers frequently amend ballot initiatives, it violates the spirit of political participation to repeal them outright. “You should expect state legislatures to push back on these things, at least somewhat,” says Craig Burnett, a political scientist at Hofstra University. “But ignoring them altogether is different. It defeats the purpose of having direct democracy.”

    In a preemptive strike, Republican legislatures are also making it harder for citizens to place initiatives on the ballot in the first place. Following the election, according to a report by Ballotpedia, lawmakers in 33 states introduced 186 bills to adjust the ballot-initiative process—often making it more restrictive. Both South Dakota and North Dakota established task forces designed to “reform” the initiative process, and Arizona banned advocacy groups from paying people for each signature they collect to place an initiative on the ballot—creating yet another hurdle in an already difficult process.

    There are ways to protect ballot initiatives from legislative tampering. In California, voters must approve any move that legislators make to repeal or substantively alter initiatives. Other states permit repeal or amendment only by a supermajority vote of the legislature. And some states, like Nevada, prevent lawmakers from tampering with voter-approved initiatives until the measure has been enshrined in state law for a set number of years. Voters in South Dakota and Missouri are working to place similar protections on the ballot next year, in the form of constitutional amendments—which can’t be overturned by the legislature. “If those succeed,” says Altic of Ballotpedia, “you’ll see other states doing it, for sure.”

    In an age of partisan gerrymandering and voter suppression, robust forms of direct democracy are more important than ever. Ballot initiatives give voters an essential means for passing laws that reflect the will of the majority, and Democrats should do whatever they can to protect the initiative process. But by definition, ballot initiatives are a tool of the powerless. If you have to try to pass a law yourself, it means your political party has failed. In the end, ballot initiatives are no substitute for Democrats finding a way to win control of state legislatures.


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    How to Break Up a Country Without Creating Havoc
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    Earlier this month, voters in the autonomous Spanish region of Catalonia overwhelmingly approved a controversial referendum to secede from the country, though the consequence of the vote remains unclear. In an address to the Catalan Parliament, the region’s president and separatist leader, Carles Puigdemont, simultaneously declared independence and suspended that declaration to pursue negotiations with Spain. Rightly confused, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gave Puigdemont eight days to clarify his position, threatening to suspend the Catalan Parliament and impose central government authority over the region. That deadline arrives on Monday.

    Meanwhile, in Iraq last month, Kurds voted overwhelmingly to pursue an independent state of Kurdistan. Massoud Barzani, the president of the region, warned the Iraqi government against taking measures to block Kurdish independence. The authorities in Bagdad rebuffed these demands and took diplomatic steps to isolate the Kurds. Iraq on Monday seized oil fields near Kirkuk as part of a broader offensive to reclaim the Kurdish-controlled city, The New York Times reported.

    These campaigns have raised the prospect of partition in their respective nations. Although the Kurds may have more compelling claims to independence than the Catalans—Kurds already exercise effective political and military control over territory in the region—they both present credible challenges to central governments and promise to transform political landscapes in these countries and across Western Europe and the Middle East. Last-ditch negotiations may still resolve their differences, but if they do not, there will likely be a nasty political—and perhaps even armed—fight for independence. At this crucial moment, it is important for parties on all sides to consider the risks associated with partition, which have been largely dismissed or ignored.

    During the last 100 years, great powers and nationalist movements have partitioned states around the world, first in Ireland and then in Korea, China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Palestine, Cyprus, Germany, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Ethiopia, and mostly recently, Sudan. Diplomats advanced partition as a way to solve emerging conflicts and award state power to deserving movements, which were often willing to use force to achieve their independence. But partition, which the diplomat Conor Cruise O’Brien once described as “the expedient of tired statesmen,” rarely settled disputes between different ethnic groups or political adversaries. In fact, it usually created more problems than it solved.


    In modern history, the partition of nations has almost always created three problems that kept conflicts boiling. First, it triggered massive migrations across newly drawn borders. The outbreak or threat of violence forced people to leave, particularly if they were anxious about their status as minorities in newly created states. Others were drawn by the opportunities they hope to find among their own people, in states where they might exercise their rights as a majority. Hundreds of thousands fled across borders in Korea, Vietnam, Palestine; millions in Germany and the Soviet Union. In India, 17 million refugees crossed frontiers during the first six months after partition. The violence that drove them claimed one million lives.

    Importantly, many people also decided to stay. They clung to their homes and hoped for the best. Millions of Muslims made this choice and remained in India. Today, India counts a larger Muslim population than Pakistan. But officials in many divided states adopted policies that discriminated against resident minorities and privileged members of ethnic-political majorities. They gerrymandered electoral districts, suppressed minority voters, or deprived them of citizenship. They denied minority access to higher education, public service, and armed forces. They adopted official languages that disadvantaged non-native speakers. They passed laws of return (Germany, Israel, Eritrea) that privileged ethnic nationals from diaspora communities over resident minorities who lived in their homelands.

    In response to discriminatory practices, resident minorities fought for redress and solicited support from their brethren in neighboring states, as they did in Kashmir and in Ireland. This led to a second problem: conflict within and between divided states. “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland and intifadas in Palestine are symptoms of this problem. In recent years, movements in some divided states have decided to prevent the onset of these problems by forcibly removing all resident minorities from their midst, which in Yugoslavia and Ethiopia/Eritrea led to ethnic cleansing.

    Third, officials in divided states quarreled over the division of assets and the borders drawn between them. They claimed territories and people not assigned to them. They challenged the sovereignty, the very existence, of their neighbors. And they waged wars to assert or defend their sovereign claims. This led to the outbreak of major wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Yugoslavia; recurring wars in Ethiopia/Eritrea, India/Pakistan, and Israel/Arab states; and uncivil wars in Ireland, Israel, Pakistan, India, Ukraine, and numerous post-Soviet states. These conflicts in turn triggered superpower interventions that widened wars and, in some cases, resulted in nuclear threats that led directly to the proliferation of nuclear weapons in North Korea, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel. The current crisis of proliferation in North Korea is a contemporary byproduct of partition.

    But partition has not always led to migration, discrimination, conflict and war. If the parties in Spain and Iraq are determined to take steps that might result, willingly or reluctantly, in partition, they might consider how one country managed to get partition right.


    In 1992, Václav Klaus and Vladimír Mečiar, the respective leaders of the Czech and Slovak political parties, partitioned Czechoslovakia, but avoided the problems commonly associated with divided states. The “Velvet Divorce” had several important, unique features. First, Klaus and Mečiar agreed that partition was in their mutual interest, though for different reasons. The Czechs wanted to create a free-market economy; the Slovaks wanted to retain a social-welfare state. They were able to negotiate an amicable separation because there was no real constitutional impediment to partition (Czechoslovakia was a federal state made up of constituent “republics” in Bohemia and Slovakia); Czechoslovakian President Václav Havel lacked the political power to deny it; they did not test the agreement with a popular referendum; and legal and military bureaucracies did not obstruct it.

    Second, Klaus and Mečiar did not fortify or close the border, restrict trade, or demand that minority ethnic populations decamp for their newly assigned “homelands.” Instead, they kept the frontier open, encouraged business as usual, allowed citizens to move freely across the border, and gave them two years to choose which country they wanted to claim as their own.

    Third, they both applied for membership in the European Union and NATO, which both eventually joined. These shared institutions promoted economic development in both countries and provided mutual security as allies in a shared military institution. EU membership also allowed people to migrate freely as workers, tourists, and households across the Czech-Slovak border and around Europe, in effect creating dual citizenships for all. As a result, ethnic-national identities did not harden or diverge after the Velvet Divorce and residual conflicts were resolved without acrimony.

    Many of these conditions may not apply in Spain and Iraq. For instance, Spain does not have a constitution that easily accommodates separation and its leaders see little benefit from partition, making it difficult for them to agree to an uncontested divorce. In Iraq, disagreements over oil wealth and territory (such as Kirkuk) make a peaceful divorce unlikely. For these reasons, the leaders of the Kurdish and Catalonian separatist movements might do well to take step a back from the precipice of partition and seek a political solution to addressing their grievances while remaining part of the country from which they seek to secede. If nothing else, the recent declarations of independence in these two regions might provide the necessary leverage to do so.


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    Could There Be a Canadian Trump?
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    Canadians have a complex relationship with the United States. On the one hand, Canadians share the world’s longest undefended border with the U.S., voraciously consume their pop culture, and speak with (almost) the same accent. But in spite of living right on top of the most powerful economic, military, and cultural force in the world, Americans and Canadians are growing further apart, not closer. How has a country of 35 million resisted being culturally, economically, and politically subsumed by a nation with 10 times the population and infinitely greater cultural output? And what happens when that powerful neighbor elects a leader who disregards the norms and values of the liberal world order? 

    That’s what Michael Adams seeks to answer in his new book, Could It Happen Here: Canada in the Age of Trump and Brexit. Adams has been monitoring Canadian political, economic, and social attitudes since the 1990s, back when NAFTA was newly in force and Canadians feared that their country would become indistinguishable from its southern neighbor. At the time, it seemed inevitable. In 2002, a poll of Canadians found that 58 percent of respondents said that they were becoming more like Americans. But when Adams asked the same question in the spring of 2017, only 27 percent of Canadians felt that way.

    COULD IT HAPPEN HERE?: CANADA IN THE AGE OF TRUMP AND BREXIT By Michael AdamsSimon & Schuster, 192 pp., $24

    Much of what he sees taking place between Canada and the U.S. occurs in the context of history: Where Americans are now, Canadians have been before. Canada has already experienced a decade of media bashing, reactionary policy, attacks on science, and self-serving obfuscation by government officials. Because prior to the handsome, selfie-taking Justin Trudeau, Canadians had the Conservative Party and the aggressive Prime Minister Stephen Harper running the country from 2006 to 2015.

    Elected by a mix of centrist voters upset with Liberal Party scandals and disenchanted, conservative-leaning suburbanites, Harper was a radical change for Canadians, and as his tenure dragged on, they didn’t like what they saw. What had once been a comparatively staid parliamentary process became an ideological battlefield driven by cultural resentments. In justifying new tough-on-crime legislation, justice minister Rob Nicholson said the government’s policies were instead going to be decided  not by the best available data, but by “common sense,” and a rejection of the “educated urban elites who had the ear of government for decades.” One can almost hear the muffled screams from behind the mask of politeness that Canadians always wear.

    This anti-elite, anti-information statement set the tone. The conservatives went on to eliminate the long-form census, a data collection tool that was essential to administering Canada’s historically large and interventionist government. The head of Statistics Canada, the government agency that oversees the census, resigned in protest. The census was the bedrock of evidence-based decision making in the country, helping inform policies like where to set electoral boundaries, devote healthcare funding, and countless other areas of governance. Later, the conservatives pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol. The idea was to force the Canadian government to rapidly shrink.

    Much like the Trump administration, the Harper government erred toward ideologically-driven unilateralism. The era of conservative rule was meant to make Canada more American: more nationalistic in its tone, more austere in its social programs, and more conservative in its economic policy. But the public didn’t fall for the conservatives’ anti-elitist sentiment: The more experts decried Harper’s policies, the more unpopular those policies became. As Adams notes, in Canada, “public opinion in recent decades seems to have steadily followed elite consensus.” Climate change and environmental activism became more prominent in Canada the more the Harper government opposed it.

    Adams’ strength is in his ability to masterfully explain the intricacies of the American political psyche, and deftly contrast them with Canadians’ own tendencies. Americans are “more inclined to be religious, risk-taking, aspirational, and money-focused.” Canadians, on the other hand, went in the opposite direction, being “more secular, risk averse, and self-effacing.” In politics, 58 percent of Canadians said they liked elected officials who made compromises, as opposed to just 40 percent of Americans. Adams makes a convincing case that these differences in attitudes are real, and that they lead to very different political realities. 

    Part of this difference is that Canadians trust government institutions in ways that Americans do not. For example, a recent statement by Donald Trump that he may not renew temporary protection status permits for some immigrants has sent a wave of predominantly Haitian refugees over the Canadian border into Quebec and Manitoba. While there has been grumbling over this influx—and some of it has been racist—most Canadians continue to believe that the government has handled immigration in a responsible way. The country continues to welcome over 300,000 immigrants a year, around 1 percent of its population, and none of the major political parties advocate for a cut in admissions. This kind of openness cannot happen in a country where the people do not trust state institutions to protect their best interests.

    Canadian governments have generally behaved in the same way when it comes to refugee crises, irrespective of the party in power. In the late 1970s, it was Joe Clark’s Progressive Conservative government that admit 60,000 refugees from Southeast Asia, the so-called Boat People, to Canada. In 2015, when the Harper government tried to avoid admitting any Syrian refugees, the public backlash was substantial and many Canadians began to doubt the moral integrity of the conservatives’ position. Adams writes that, “Clark, and others from his 1979 cabinet, reminded Canadians of our previous generosity to the South-east Asians.” 

    It’s not that Canada is a postracial paradise with no history of racist oppression. Today, conditions in many indigenous communities have been described as “third-world.” Drinking water advisories have been issued in most communities in the past decade and now many grapple with a youth suicide crisis. Black Canadians suffer too, being barred from movie theaters in the early twentieth century and enduring the demolition of black communities like Africville, Nova Scotia. But unlike the U.S., the government has acknowledged and apologized for these and other injustices of the past; recent evidence shows that at least in terms of Canadian electoral politics, it does not pay to espouse racism publicly. 

    In fact, the Canadian right sees immigration as an electoral advantage. Many Canadian immigrants, particularly from China and South Asia, lean socially conservative, and make for natural Tory voters. The Conservative Party’s plans to win office in 2006 “ran directly through the heart of those urban and suburban neighborhoods that exemplify the new Canada, a country more positively invested in immigration than almost any other developed economy in the world,” Adams says. But by 2015, the party took an anti-immigrant tone. Sensing they had little to show for their decade in power, the conservatives decided upon fearmongering and anti-Muslim wedge politics. It didn’t work; in fact, Adams argues, this choice was what sealed its fate. They lost a staggering 60 seats in the 2015 election, dropping from 159 MPs to 99 MPs. In Canada, race resentment just doesn’t sell the way it does in the U.S.

    After the Liberal victory in 2015, the conservatives found themselves at a crossroads. Sensing they want too far right, most politicians avoided sounding like Harper on social issues. The exception was Kellie Leitch, a candidate for Conservative Party chair who saw a path to victory through invoking an anti-elitist message and calling for the creation of a “Canadian values” test for new citizens. That didn’t work, either. Even among the conservatives, at least for the time being, race-baiting is no longer popular. Just 8 percent of eligible party voters supported her. 


    Could a Trump-style figure arise in Canada? The recent trends suggest no. But that doesn’t mean that Canada couldn’t field a politician that uses the same divisive, bombastic language to mobilize disgruntled voters. Some would say that with Harper, Canada has already proved its ability to be seduced by the right. And like the U.S., Canada faces deindustrialization, increasing inequality, and a growing presence of far right groups. All the ingredients are there.

    But it’s unlikely that Canadian voters would be duped by a charismatic leader the way that Trump supporters have been. That’s because in Canada, no one who pays attention to politics can believe that if they simply elect the right person, all the changes that need to happen can be made. In Canada, a slow-by-design federal government means that all policy changes must be negotiated between the provinces and even among the cities. The process creates a lot of bureaucratic red tape, and it means that even desperately needed policy changes can happen at a glacial pace. But it also immunizes Canadians from thinking that any leader, alone, can fix their problems. 


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    Yanis Varoufakis’s Doomed Fight Against Austerity
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    If you are not the sort of person who is already likely to read a 500-page book on the  former Greek finance minister’s efforts to save his country from the machinations of the International Monetary Fund, then you aren’t going to become one because I leave you in suspense. So let me spoil Yanis Varoufakis’s Adults in the Room for you now. He failed.

    ADULTS IN THE ROOM: MY BATTLE WITH EUROPE’S DEEP ESTABLISHMENT by Yanis VaroufakisFarrar, Straus and Giroux, 560 pp., $28.00

    In early 2015, it looked as if Varoufakis’s party, the left-wing Syriza party, had a chance to roll back some of the harsh austerity measures the EU and IMF imposed on their country in the wake of the global financial crisis. Syriza came to power in January 2015, promising a better deal, and in July that year Greeks voted to reject the latest bailout proposal from the European Commission, European Central Bank, and IMF. Despite all this, Greece ultimately agreed to deep austerity measures. The country would service its creditors at the expense of its citizens, who suffered swingeing cuts to wages, pensions and public sector jobs at the same times as hikes in VAT and property taxes. Hell hath no fury like an international credit consortium scorned. This book is Varoufakis’s best effort to explain why his best effort was not enough.

    Other writers have already explored the relative success or failure of Varoufakis’s accounting. On the superlative end, Paul Mason writes in the Guardian that Adults in the Room is “one of the greatest political memoirs of all time,” “one of the most accurate and detailed descriptions of modern power ever written,” that it will “gain the same stature as Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon B. Johnson” as “a manual for exploring the perils of statecraft.”

    While more grandiose in his praise than most reviewers, Mason follows the broad consensus. Varoufakis’s book lays bare the way Europe’s leading powers disguised bailouts of their own financial institutions as “assistance” to Greece, and confirms what many on the left have long suspected: that we live in an era in which the interests of supernational institutions—particularly the “troika” of the EUC, ECB, and IMF—outweigh those of sovereign nations. Fail to take on debts to these organizations, and your national economy will be fatally excluded from currency and trade arrangements. Take them on, and your economy will become a vehicle for servicing your debt. If hospitals and schools and social services must be plundered in order to accomplish this goal, so be it.

    The “adults in the room” of Varoufakis’s title are the serious and sober decision makers who guard the global financial order. They act, as Varoufakis says, not out of greed or cruelty, but because their best intentions have been captured by the untenable and mystifying financial arrangements that keep capital alive in this century. They are “adults” by virtue of their willingness to resolve the terrible disparity between the rich countries’ self-proclaimed moral authority and the damage they wreak on smaller economies. The real grown-ups don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the convenient. The adults are a network of mutually dependent “insiders,” Varoufakis says, and for all their power they don’t have much leeway within their hierarchies to defy the status quo. If they did, they’d simply lose their positions and end up replaced by someone more willing. This was, ultimately, what happened to Varoufakis.


    “Austerity,” Varoufakis writes, “is a morality play pressed into the service of legitimizing cynical wealth transfers from the have-nots to have haves during times of crisis.” That is the essential case contained in these 500 pages and the one that most every critic, myself included, finds essential.

    But making that case is not all that Adults in the Room is after. Some critics—most notably Helena Sheehan in the leftwing magazine Jacobin—have attacked Varoufakis for failing to apply systemic analysis to what he correctly identifies as a systemic problem, and for discounting the role of the broader Greek left in the process. Sheehan agrees, along with Mason, that Adults in the Room “lucidly explains” the process by “Greece was never ‘bailed out’ but forced, through many layers of subterfuge, to bear the burden of bailing out German and French banks.’” She also concurs that by recounting the many tangled private conversations that led to this arrangement, Varoufakis performs a “service in bearing witness” to an “essential dynamic.” But, Sheehan argues, the book is ultimately selective with the facts “in a way that is blatantly self-justifying.” Among the book’s chief sins, she writes, is the way in which only the technocratic “adults” are held to account for their actions:

    Everyone else’s role is blurred, distorted, or even invisible. Syriza barely exists. The Greek Left are nearly absent. The Greek people fade into the background. It is a landscape of elite players and anonymous masses.

    Adults in the Room is a “Lone Ranger narrative,” “blind” to its own elitist tendencies, focusing on a battle of personalities rather than setting the crisis in historical context. “His hubris blinds him to the bigger picture,” Sheehan concludes. “Varoufakis projected himself as Prometheus, but revealed himself to be more of a Narcissus.”

    There is no doubt that Varoufakis is grandiose. Adults in the Room is the work of a man who spent his time in office being photographed on his motorcycle, leather jacket never failing to expose his rippling muscles. He devotes plenty of room in the book to settling scores and talking up his own “solitary struggle,” and his account is filled with pretension masquerading as style. His very first sentence describes “amber liquid flickering in the glass” in a hotel bar. He has come to the bar, he explains, because he is one of the “few” for whom “burdens trump sleep.” He tells us that “watching Greece’s creditors at work was like watching a version of Macbeth unfold in the land of Oedipus,” as if the real trouble with the European Union is its inability to stick to one metaphor. Varoufakis is smiling, always smiling, as he “dismisses” threats, gives difficult, honest answers, and outwits dour German bureaucrats.

    But I am not interested in suggesting that Adults in the Room would have been a better book if it had not been so exhaustingly teenaged in its cool. Rather, I want to ask whether it is really possible to “expose” the intrigues of financial power in a book like this. While Varoufakis’s routine may have been among the more grating of bad choices, it possible that there were never any good choices on offer here.


    The problem, at bottom, is that having lost the material battle for the future of Greece, Varoufakis can only tell a story. For all his “revelations” about the working of the IMF here, his book reveals very little that was not already known. Showing how a system fails people is not the same as acquiring the power to change that system and bring about a better world. The whole magic of the “adults” this book goes after is that “insiders” do not need to operate in secret. They only need to operate with irresistible force. That is the mundane tragedy of the world. Because a book cannot alter these forces, it can only do what all books with unhappy endings do: attempt to squeeze meaning from catastrophe.

    It is worth examining the two plays Varoufakis invokes in his introduction and to which he returns throughout the text. The first is Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which Varoufakis calls on in order to argue that the players in his story, even the really wretched ones, all operated with the best intentions—their tragedy was that ambition necessarily leads those who act on it to bad ends. This is useful enough to a certain extent, but despite the critique in Jacobin, Varoufakis is at least superficially aware of the fact that it is not individuals and their flaws that drive history but rather the impersonal forces of money and power. Thus the second play he brings in, Oedipus. This ushers our well-intentioned Shakespeareans into a rigged world. It wouldn’t matter if they could only see their own character defects: Try to avert catastrophe, Sophocles tells us, and you invariably bring it about.

    But it’s an odd comparison. While Adults in the Room surely ends with Greece’s ruin, the international conspirators Varoufakis wants to indict were never trying to avert that. For them, ruin would be the insolvency for their central banks. In order to prevent this disaster, they must destroy the welfare of the Greek people. They succeed. The world does not spring its trap, at least not on the central actors here. Maybe Varoufakis would have had better luck with different literary parallels, but I don’t think he would. The trouble is that stories require twists of fate and just deserts and motivated action. The world does not. In his story, a million small incentives allow the accidental heirs of global power to get precisely what they want. They begin on top. They end on top. They may have flaws, but it doesn’t matter. There’s no plot here but the slow, inevitable grind of deck chairs shuffling on an aggravated, unfair planet.

    Perhaps he might have been less melodramatic about it all, but it’s hard enough to make anyone want to read so much about a forgone conclusion. You’ve got to attract attention. You’ve got to offer something even those sorts of readers not ordinarily inclined to buy a 500 page book by a former Greek finance minister can grab onto—but what does that look like? Perhaps, in the best case, something more subtle than this. But in every case it will be howling protest awkwardly shoehorned into the structure of high epic; that is to say, it will be something that power can roll its eyes at, while the major financial institutions carry on finding the next poor weak nation to take for all it’s worth.

    Adults in the Room is an essential book and it is vital that books like it be written about each one of the injustices inflicted on the vulnerable by the present masters of the world. But this effort, in particular, is clumsy and these efforts, in general, are a stopgap at best. In 500 pages, you don’t learn much from Varoufakis about what he might have done differently, or how the Greek people could have won. I suspect that’s because he doesn’t know. That’s why he’s left banging on the ramparts with an uneven book. But more than a better book, I’d like a better leader, one who wins.


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    The Power of Negative Thinking
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    President Donald Trump is a terrific leader, if he does say so himself. There’s never been a commander-in-chief so prone to extravagant self-praise, which is all the more striking given the paucity of his achievements to date. “We’ve done a great job,” he told reporters on Friday. “We’ve done a great job in Puerto Rico.” Later that day, he tweeted what “a wonderful statement” from “the great” Lou Dobbs, a host on the Fox Business Network: “We take up what may be the most accomplished presidency in modern American history.” In interviews, Trump is eager to tout accomplishments that, quite frankly, don’t even make any sense, as when he claimed in an interview on Wednesday with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that the rise in the stock market can be seen as offsetting the national debt.

    Trump’s relentless self-promotion is one of his most consistent character traits, which can be traced back to his earliest days as a real estate mogul. In always tooting his own horn, Trump is a familiar American type: the eternal salesman, a hustler who won’t take no for an answer and will say anything to close a deal. Being relentlessly on the make, for someone like Trump, isn’t just a job; it’s a vocation. And that vocation is fueled by a theology of positive thinking.

    As a number of observers have persuasively argued, Trump is guided by a particular gospel. Though he’s more secular than any of his predecessors, he has genuine roots in one particular strand of Protestantism. He grew up attending the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, which was presided over by the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, the author of one of the all-time bestselling self-help books in American history: The Power of Positive Thinking. In 1977, Peale would marry Trump to his first wife, Ivana.

    While Trump has only the most rudimentary knowledge of the Bible, he often echoes Peale’s core lesson: that happy thoughts and cheerful chatter are the key to success. “Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding,” Peale wrote in his best-seller. “Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop this picture. Never think of yourself as failing.” In a 1983 interview with The New York Times, Trump echoed Peale’s dogmas. “The mind can overcome any obstacle,” the young Trump said. “I never think of the negative.” In his campaign book Crippled America, Trump wrote, “Reverend Peale was the type of minister that I liked, and I liked him personally as well. I especially loved his sermons. He would instill a very positive feeling about God that also made me feel positive about myself.”

    Trump might feel positive about himself, but not about the world around him. As a candidate, and even as a president, he has often used dark, frightening rhetoric to portray America as a land where ordinary people are betrayed by a globalist elite and exploited by cunning foreigners and vicious immigrants—the most memorable exampled being his “American carnage” inaugural address. He also concocts derisive nicknames for his political enemies, most recently going after “Liddle” Bob Corker. But this seeming contradiction between the mantra of “positive thinking” and Trump’s nasty, apocalyptic rhetoric is best understood as two sides of the same sales pitch: The world is a mess, and “I alone can fix it.” Trump’s portrait of an America in deep decline was a necessary predicate to winning votes and now, less successfully, to maintaining support, the logic being that the U.S. was in such dire straits that it’s worth the risk to trust Trump.

    The theological roots of “positive thinking” show how the seeming polar extremes of pessimism and optimism work hand in hand. Peale’s “positive thinking” is part of one of the great revolutions in American history, the overthrow of the Calvinist conscience. Historically, Calvinism, the version of Protestantism popular among early British settlers, promoted an almost morbid self-reflection on personal sin. This often debilitating focus on remorse was challenged in the nineteenth century from religious reformers, philosophers, and self-help gurus who were collectively labelled New Thought. As against the Calvinist injunction to examine internal vice, the New Thought argued that focusing on wholesome, productive ideas was the path to virtue.

    As Barbara Ehrenreich noted in her 2008 book Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, there was considerable continuity between the older Calvinism and the New Thought, despite their superficial differences: “The Calvinist monitored his or her thoughts and feelings for signs of laxness, sin, and self-indulgence, while the positive thinker is ever on the look out for ‘negative thoughts’ charged with anxiety or doubt.” To put it another way, Positive Thinking doesn’t so much displace Calvinist theology as shift the locus of evil, now seen as an external enemy to be fought rather than an internal sin to be overcome.

    In political terms, it is precisely because Trump can’t abide any negative thoughts about his abilities that any problem is externalized. As a megalomaniac, Trump can’t acknowledge fault or the need to improve himself, so he lays blame for his failures on foes instead: the Fake News media, disloyal Republicans, or whiny Democrats. In short, Trump’s self-regard is built on his contempt for “losers and haters”—and vice versa. Yet Trump’s polarized view of the world and stark combination of pessimism and optimism offers a lesson for his opponents: If you want to build a politics that persuades people that major change is necessary, you have to paint with the same bright colors of despair and hope that Trump uses.


    In the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton pointedly refused to match Trump’s dark vision of our times. She echoed the uninspiring words of Barack Obama: “America is already great.” Clinton was, to be sure, hobbled by the fact that she was running to continue Obama’s legacy. Still, by accepting the binders of “America is already great,” she foreclosed the possibility of running as a transformative candidate. Her campaign message could be summed thus: “Preserve the status quo.”

    Fortunately, Democrats running in 2018 and 2020 won’t be similarly bound by a popular incumbent president. With Republicans controlling all three branches of government, presidential hopefuls like Senator Elizabeth Warren, not to mention many down-ballot candidates, should take a page from Trump’s playbook.

    From a liberal point of view, it’s easy enough to tell a dystopian story about America today. It’s not just that the president is a reckless, incompetent racist who has no grasp on policy. It’s also that the political system is in the grip of plutocrats who limit reform, the archaic electoral and representative system effectively allows for minority rule, and the Republican Party’s embrace of white nationalism and voter suppression threaten to erode democracy. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the intractable problems of climate change, extreme economic inequality, and systemic racism.

    Positive thinking is popular not just among hucksters like Trump, but also the political left, attached as it is to a view that history is a story of progress, however haltingly. Obama constantly invoked Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The notion it might not bend as such remains controversial on the left, hence the unending debate about the pessimism of Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose work increasingly emphasizes the profound influence of white supremacy in America. In an extended back-and-forth with Coates in 2014, Jonathan Chait of New York magazine argued,  “It is hard to explain how the United States has progressed from chattel slavery to emancipation to the end of lynching to the end of legal segregation to electing an African-American president if America has ‘rarely’ been the ally of African-Americans and ‘often’ its nemesis. It is one thing to notice the persistence of racism, quite another to interpret the history of black America as mainly one of continuity rather than mainly one of progress.” In response, Coates made a compelling case that an optimistic narrative of American history sweeps too much ugliness under the rug by ignoring how the very basis of progress was often racism itself:

    The notion that black America’s long bloody journey was accomplished through frequent alliance with the United States is an assailant’s-eye view of history. It takes no note of the fact that in 1860, most of this country’s exports were derived from the forced labor of the people it was “allied” with. It takes no note of this country electing senators who, on the Senate floor, openly advocated domestic terrorism. It takes no note of what it means for a country to tolerate the majority of the people living in a state like Mississippi being denied the right to vote. It takes no note of what it means to exclude black people from the housing programs, from the GI Bills, that built the American middle class. Effectively it takes no serious note of African-American history, and thus no serious note of American history.

    You see this in Chait’s belief that he lives in a country “whose soaring ideals sat uncomfortably aside an often cruel reality.” No. Those soaring ideals don’t sit uncomfortably aside the reality but comfortably on top of it. The “cruel reality” made the “soaring ideals” possible.

    Three years later, Donald Trump is president, confirming Coates’s grim assessment of American history up to the present day. Trump didn’t just run a virulently racist campaign; his entire political identity, as Coates wrote in a recent essay, is founded on negating the achievements of the first black president. “The first white president in American history,” he concluded, “is also the most dangerous president—and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.”

    Coates’s fatalistic view that racism is intrinsic to American culture, including on the left, is tough for many progressives to accept. Stephen Colbert recently asked him, “Do you have any hope tonight for the people out there, about how we could be a better country, we could have better race relations, we could have better politics?” Coates responded in the negative.

    One senses a fear, among Colbert and so many others, that pessimism is paralyzing; that it discourages the fight for change. But optimism has its own pitfalls. It can cause political miscalculations, as when Obama assured supporters in 2012 that if he were reelected, the Republican “fever” would break and the GOP would become more cooperative. In fact, Republicans became even more fevered, not only obstructing Obama but becoming more extreme in their racial politics, paving the way for Trump.

    The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, during his long imprisonment under Benito Mussolini’s regime, famously wrote, “I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” In an American context, this combination can be found most potently in Abraham Lincoln, whose very awareness of the enormity of the problem of slavery pushed him toward the radical solution of abolition. There are few more negative national appraisals than Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, where he said, “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”

    Traditionally, modern politicians shy away from such a dismal portrait of their own country, for fear of furthering polarizing the nation and thereby making governance more difficult. Yet as both Trump and Bernie Sanders proved in 2016, pessimism is an effective mobilizing tool because it raises the stakes of an election, bolstering the case for risk-taking change. If such a case proved convincing for Trump in the waning days of a popular presidency and steadily improving economy, then surely it would be even more convincing under a historically unpopular president who is undoing efforts to fight climate change, proposing tax cuts for the rich, sabotaging health care for the poor, demonizing non-white people, monetizing his presidency, and posing an existential threat to American democracy itself.

    Trump’s curious mixture of pessimism and optimism might be rooted in the flimsy self-help gospel of Positive Thinking, but it would be a mistake to confuse the message with the messenger. There is carnage in America indeed, even if it’s largely not the carnage that Trump claimed. The problem is that the solution he offered—his supposed skills as a deal maker—was quack medicine. But an accomplished politician could, as Trump did, appeal to suffering Americans while also selling a remedy that would, unlike Trump’s, actually address their troubles. In other words, the risk for Democrats lies not in preaching such a self-serving gospel. The real risk would be to dismiss Trump’s effective rhetoric simply because he failed to deliver on it.


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    Trump Just Started a Nuclear Crisis With Iran
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    President Donald Trump on Friday did what he does best: He threw a temper tantrum on national TV. To address what he called “the increasing menace posed by Iran,” he announced his refusal to send Congress a routine certification required by law that Iran is keeping its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal. He also announced “additional sanctions on the regime to block their financing of terror,” and promised, “We will deny the regime all paths to a nuclear weapon.” In doing so, Trump will start a new nuclear crisis, one that he has no idea how to solve—and which may end with Tehran following Pyongyang’s lead, testing thermonuclear weapons and long-range missiles that can strike the United States.

    Trump claims he has good cause for not providing certification. “Importantly, Iran is not living up to the spirit of the deal,” he said on Friday. But Yukiya Amano, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is charged with monitoring and verifying the deal, was unequivocal last month: “The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] are being implemented.” Even one of Trump’s top generals, James Dunford of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says so.

    The real crisis here is Trump’s fragile ego. As a candidate, he called the Iran nuclear deal an “embarrassment” and the “worst deal ever.” So nothing has been more humiliating to him to be required, under the Iran Nuclear Review Act, to certify that Iran is, in fact, keeping its promises. This amounts to requiring the president to admit, in writing, that he’s a windbag.

    Donald Trump says Iran has violated the 2015 nuclear agreement numerous times and refuses to sign off on the deal pic.twitter.com/vtO5vcJQAe

    — Sky News (@SkyNews) October 13, 2017

    Trump has provided this certification twice—although only after a knock-down, drag-out fight with his advisers both times. A senior administration official told CNN last week that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “has said the problem with the JCPOA is not the JCPOA,” adding, “It’s the legislation. Every 90 days the president must certify and it creates a political crisis. If the administration could put the nuclear deal in a corner, everyone could happily get back to work on dealing with everything else that is a problem with Iran.”

    How this cumbersome requirement even came to be is itself an enormous act of political cowardice.

    In 2015, the GOP-controlled Congress wanted a role in the process that led to the Iran deal. But members of Congress by and large loathe taking the slightest bit of responsibility for their actions. Their solution: the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which allowed Congress to review any agreement reached during the then-ongoing talks with Iran about its nuclear program. The bill, which sailed through both chambers by wide, bipartisan margins, ensured that if a deal was reached with Iran. The bill created the classic free vote in Congress—since Obama could veto any resolution of disapproval, members were free to vote against the agreement without actually putting the deal at risk. (A presidential veto proved unnecessary in the end.) Thus, political giants like senators Bob Corker, Chuck Schumer, and Ben Cardin had their cake and ate it, too.

    Congress also required the president certify, every 90 days, that Iran is implementing its commitments. This was a seemingly cost-free way for Congress to appear to maintain a keen interest in the issue, while actually shifting the burden to the White House. Obama, playing the role of responsible adult, could be counted on to take the political blame and submit the certification. But no one would accuse Trump of being a grown up. So he’s tossing the issue back to Congress.

    The Iran nuclear agreement will not automatically collapse without certification. Trump’s decision merely triggers a process by which Congress may, if it chooses, re-impose some or all of the U.S. sanctions that preceded the 2015 deal; it could also simply repeal the troublesome certification requirement. But members of Congress aren’t pleased about being put back on the spot. Corker seems unusually incensed, and why wouldn’t he be? After all, he’s managed to dupe the fact checkers into thinking he opposed the Iran nuclear deal just because he voted against it.

    It might seem cynical to paint administration officials as toadies enabling Trump’s bad behavior, and members of Congress as cowards unwilling to take political risks for an agreement they know is our best chance to head off a nuclear-armed Iran. And yet, enablement and cowardice are precisely what we have seen over and over again, as our leaders have watched Trump seize control of the Republican Party and now our republic. Time and again, we have seen public officials take the easy way out.

    Why should that change now? Trump got to throw his temper tantrum, while White House staff and members of Congress imagine that they are clever enough to placate him without quite killing the deal. There are already reports that Corker, along with Senator Tom Cotton, is drafting legislation that will alter the terms of the agreement with Iran. Once again, they want to have their cake and eat it, too: looking tough on Iran, without blowing up the deal. Maybe it will work. Then again, this is how we got Trump in the first place. Politicians thought they could avoid the political cost of stopping him from winning the nomination and then the election, while counting on others to do the dirty work for them.


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    In Defense of Rotten Tomatoes
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    On Tuesday, Martin Scorsese graced the online pages of The Hollywood Reporter
    with a guest column on the way that America judges films now. He’s not happy with the rise of box office sales as the arbiter of a film’s worth. This process has been on the rise since the 1980s, as he concedes, but he links the instant production of success/failure data to other types of rating, too. Market research outlet Cinemascore and online aggregator Rotten Tomatoes are rating movies “the way you’d rate a horse at the racetrack,” he writes. Meanwhile, real movie criticism is dying out. The result is an ungenerous viewership who are not seeing movies fairly.

    According to Scorsese, Rotten Tomatoes peddles “a tone that is hostile to serious filmmakers.” The people contributing there are “engaged in pure judgmentalism” rather than considered argument. They are “people who seem to take pleasure in seeing films and filmmakers rejected, dismissed and in some cases ripped to shreds.” Scorsese broadens his point with reference to Mother!, the Aronofsky movie which he loved but was panned by Rotten Tomato-ers and professional movie critics alike, including me.

    This style of fogeyism all feels a little rich coming from a filmmaker who owes his own career to the collapse of the old Hollywood studio system. Scorsese is one of the key beneficiaries of the director-centered filmmaking that emerged after the five major movie studios of the “golden age” ceded control of production. Hollywood is a place in constant flux. But to take his column on good faith, the crux of his argument seems to be that Rotten Tomatoes is promoting the worst of democratized criticism, rather than the best. The chief problem, he thinks, is in the pace of this reviewing.

    “Good films by real filmmakers aren’t made to be decoded, consumed or instantly comprehended,” Scorsese writes. “They’re not even made to be instantly liked.” This is a fair point. When a new movie comes out, the instantaneous conversion of viewer reception into data via Cinemascore and online takes is bound to be warped in favor of whatever idea comes to the reader first, rather than whatever idea is best. Film critics are, I suppose, a bit more practiced at slowing down their reactions. Box office ratings are certainly not a good measure of how well-made a movie is, and there’s merit to the argument that insta-criticism functions more like box office data than like measured appreciation.

    But the problem with Scorsese’s point is that Rotten Tomatoes, well, mostly gets it right. Admittedly I’m biased—I use Rotten Tomatoes and love it. For example, in his column Scorsese cites “The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life, Vertigo and Point Blank” as movies that were “rejected on first release and went on to become classics.” The idea is that Hollywood’s hostile viewership is not giving movies a fair chance, and sometimes the best movies need multiple chances to catch on. But these four movies are rated 99%, 94%, 97%, and 97% “fresh” at Rotten Tomatoes, respectively. Those are pitch-perfect ratings! I couldn’t have done better myself.

    The question then becomes, are the scores on Rotten Tomatoes just reflective of the history of criticism, and thus of conventional opinion? Or are the Rotten Tomatoes contributors themselves the critics who prop up these reputations, and thus pave the way for smarter conversations about film online? Scorsese sees them as mere responders-to and parroters-of film reviewing. I think they’re doing their own real criticism. There’s an element to Scorsese’s column that feels simply anti-reviewer. Movies are “just made,” he says, “because the person behind the camera had to make them.” This might be true, but it’s a truth seen from the filmmaker’s side. Critics feel similar promptings, I think. We just write reviews because we just do, because they’re things that we feel have to be said. That goes for staff critics and online writers alike.

    Rotten Tomatoes is a repository of some of the best nonprofessional film criticism on the internet. Take this observation about Mean Streets (1973, 85% fresh), by Scott M.: “Takes the gangster movies from the golden age and kicks it up a notch.” Spot on. Ian B. continues the exegesis, explaining the plot issues that hamper this movie: “De Niro keeps screwing up, Keitel keeps trying to bail him out. That’s about it.” It’s not the highflown prose of the New York Times, but these are accurate assessments.

    There’s also a particularly Rotten Tomatoes-ish vein of criticism that mainstream reviewing lacks, which is distance. On the Mean Streets page, for example, “super user” Daniel P. describes how it feels to watch the movie at a distance of “this many years.” Scorsese’s subsequent career made the casting into something of a red herring: “if you’re a De Niro fan, don’t go into this thinking he’s the star! I only knew a little about the movie before watching, and it took a while (maybe too long) for me to really invest in Harvey Keitel’s character, Charlie, whose movie it actually is—I don’t blame the filmmaker or Keitel for that though, that’s my fault.”

    But it isn’t Daniel P.’s fault. He is actually offering up an interesting statement: a perspective on the early films of Martin Scorsese by a viewer whose reception of those films has been overwhelmed by the later features of his career—features that include Robert De Niro’s face in every frame. And it speaks to a certain weakness in the Scorsese oeuvre, notably repetitiveness. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with soundtracks by The Rolling Stones. I’ve had it with shots of a smirking Leonardo di Caprio. And I’ve specifically had it because the repetitions of Scorsese’s later career empty his early innovations of their transgressive power. It’s difficult to find space to talk about Mean Streets in a magazine review, because we have to think about new things in light of the old, not old things in light of the new. Rotten Tomatoes is a repository for analyses like these.

    Scorsese’s column is all the more confusing because his movies are pretty easy to love. Not all of them have been well-reviewed, but movies like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull bathe in the kind of edgy machismo that pins posters to the walls of college students. But again, that speaks to the innovation-turned-convention that the Rotten Tomatoes critic of Mean Streets was getting at. It makes sense that a famous auteur would loathe “crowdsourced” movie criticism on the internet, because it undermines the predictability of the relationship between director, studio, distributor, and critic. It’s unpredictable, anarchic, and informal. But that doesn’t make Martin Scorsese right, or the anonymous online critics wrong.


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    Bernie Sanders Isn’t Winning Local Elections for the Left
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    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

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    One of the few bright spots of the Trump era thus far has been a new wave of electoral wins for candidates with decidedly left-of-center views. The victories have come in municipal and state-legislative races—most notably in places like Alabama, Mississippi, and Long Island, where the left isn’t “supposed” to have a chance to win anything. In some cases, like last week’s mayoral victory of Randall Woodfin in Birmingham, left-wing Democrats are unseating centrist, Chamber-of-Commerce-style Democrats. In others, longtime left-wing activists are successfully challenging Republicans in places where centrist Democrats have long failed.

    These breakthroughs are bringing fresh ideas and new faces into the foundational layers of the political system, where conservatives have been ascendant for years. But the national media, which actively misunderstands both the South and the rest of “red” America, has decided to cover these stories only as triumphs of the “Bernie Sanders left,” as though all politics were not (in the famous phrase) “local” anymore; instead, national reporters and pundits increasingly, misleadingly, see all local politics as national.

    “Bernie Wins Birmingham” is convenient shorthand for those who have no idea what actually goes on in Birmingham. But Bernie Sanders and the group his 2016 campaign inspired, Our Revolution, are not winning elections in places like Birmingham or Jackson, Mississippi, which in June elected a mayor who’s promised, “I’ll make Jackson the most radical city on the planet.” Activists in Birmingham and Jackson and Albuquerque and Long Island are winning them—left-wing activists who’ve toiled for years in the trenches, working with a new wave of organizers from Black Lives Matter and other insurgent groups, who bring social-media savvy and fired-up young voters into the mix.

    Of course, it’s a great thing that groups like Our Revolution, which sprung out of Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign, are bringing money, volunteers, and national attention to candidates like Woodfin. But the top-down narrative misses a lot about what is happening on the ground around the country. For starters, it misses the movements that shifted politics to the point where someone like Sanders could run for president and win state after state in the first place. More important, it misses the specifics—the ideas, the tactics, the challenges to existing political hegemonies—that have made these campaigns successful. And telling the story wrong lessens the chances that these unlikely wins can be replicated elsewhere.


    In the wake of Woodfin’s victory in Birmingham, political scientist Vince Gawronski of Birmingham-Southern College commented that while Sanders’s endorsement helped with young people, “No one I talked to said they were voting for Woodfin because Bernie Sanders told them.”  

    Woodfin was given a boost by Our Revolution, which provided phone-banking and texting support, and had on-the-ground help from the Working Families Party as well. But it was an army of Birmingham volunteers running a door-to-door canvass that made the difference. And it was Woodfin’s proposals—some of them straight from community movements—that spoke to the city’s frustration with unequal “revitalization” efforts that leave too many neighborhoods behind. The mayor-elect proposed, among other things, a youth jobs program inspired by a black mayor whose community programs are largely forgotten by the national media—Marion Barry of Washington, D.C.

    The “Bernie left” stories also obscure the fact that Birmingham, despite the stereotypes pinned on it and other Southern cities by the northern media, has a recent history of electing progressives—including the first openly gay state legislator in Alabama, Patricia Todd. Woodfin’s win wasn’t a “red-to-blue” shift; it was a center-to-left shift—and there’s a whole different kind of moral to that story. 

    This is, perhaps, where the “Sanders-left” frame does apply—in cases where activists are knocking off more moderate Democrats and nudging the party leftward, the way Sanders did nationally in 2016. Yet the wave of left-leaning victories has also included the likes of Christine Pellegrino, a teacher and opt-out movement leader who swung a heavily Republican district on Long Island nearly 40 points from Trump’s total just a few months earlier.

    These eye-opening wins are bringing attention to social-democratic (and Sanders-backed) candidates on ballots this November. Vincent Fort, a 20-plus-year state senator in Georgia running for mayor of Atlanta, is hoping to succeed his bitter political enemy, business-friendly Democrat Kasim Reed. Fort has ties to labor and local organizing that stretch back throughout his tenure in the legislature. Eric Robertson, political director of Teamsters local 728 in Atlanta, says Fort “has always been there as part of the movement and has always been willing to lend his voice and at times his body to different struggles going on in and around Atlanta.” He’s mobilized alongside anti-eviction activists, fought predatory lending years before the financial crisis. “Now that he’s running for office,” Robertson says, “people see him as the authentic voice of the movement,” rather than “just some person who has never spoken to these groups before, but all of a sudden is an advocate.”

    It’s that authentic movement connection, more than a simple national endorsement, that helps candidates galvanize people and win. “All these candidates got elected mainly because they had established a base from the work they have been doing in their communities, or as elected officials,” Robertson says. “What they’re getting from the Bernie campaign is to be able to form a coalition with populist-leaning progressive white folks on a scale that has not been seen for quite a long time.”

    Larry Krasner, a civil-rights attorney who won a shocking victory in May’s Democratic primary to be Philadelphia’s district attorney, told The Dig podcast that his work as a lawyer defending movements gave him a campaign army when he decided to run. “I think activists and organizers do politics better than politicians,” he said. “And that means that those of us who have been down with their causes and have supported them for a long time have credibility.”

    In some places, newer faces on the scene have established credibility by leading newer movements. Atlanta’s khalid kamau (a Yoruba name, and thus lowercased)—a DSA member and co-founder of Atlanta Black Lives Matter and “fight for $15” stalwart—stunned the local Democrats by winning a city council seat in April.

    The more radical demands of the newer movements have shifted the left’s political horizons and sharpened its demands. And its organizing skills and social-media savvy laid a path for activists like Krasner and kamau to move from relative obscurity to national name recognition. “Social movements expand the range of the possible and transform public opinion,” says Joe Dinkin of the WFP. “Larry never could have won had the Black Lives Matter movement not existed these last several years. The Black Lives Matter movement transformed how Americans thought about policing and about mass incarceration.”

    Some of the recent wins attributed to the “Bernie left” are the product of decades of planning through what were very dark times for social movements. The victory of Chokwe Antar Lumumba in this year’s Jackson, Mississippi, mayor’s race was the product of decades of work that had first borne fruit in 2013 with the election of Lumumba’s father, also Chokwe Lumumba, to that same office. The first Lumumba’s untimely death in office put the plans the Jackson organizers had made on hold for a while, but they’d been building a movement from the ground up in Jackson since 9/11. That’s when the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, known nationally for its work calculating how many black people in America are killed by police each year, decided to focus its efforts on transforming Jackson’s economy and governance. They began to build people’s assemblies, and that grassroots work formed the basis for runs for office. “Despite many of our years, if not decades, of studying radical theory and process, we didn’t encounter many who had any serious analysis on how to actually govern,” says Kali Akuno, a leader of what became Cooperation Jackson

    Their focus now is building a “solidarity economy” on a local level that can be a model for transforming cities and empowering underserved communities, Lumumba told me recently. Part of that plan is to build cooperatives—with the city’s backing—to create new businesses. It’s a direct contrast to the normal development strategy of city and state governments, which throw tax breaks at big corporations in hopes that they’ll create a few jobs with the handout. “Where we see a void, where we see a need, we can create something for ourselves,” Lumumba says, “so the community can fill its own gaps and at the same time give the people who work the opportunity to dictate what their labor will be and what the fruits of their labor will be.”


    There’s something about the fast-moving, ground-shaking political moment we’re in that defies the nomenclature we have, which perhaps explains journalists’ need to reach for a personality—a Bernie—to define what’s happening. Things are changing too quickly for our language to have caught up. “Progressive” feels too vague, too reminiscent, perhaps, of the 2000s-era anti-Bush “netroots” moment, though plenty of the people running today’s left-leaning campaigns cut their teeth in the netroots. For some, “populist” is too easy to confuse with the right-wing, Donald Trump brand. And “social democratic,”  brings the “S-word” into the equation, and risks alienating some of the less-radical left-wingers who’ve just gotten turned on to activism. 

    The movement that supported Sanders in 2016 was simply too broad to lend itself to easy labeling, ranging as it did from the socialists of DSA to left-leaning Democrats who hadn’t been moved to hit the streets under President Obama. “There’s a much larger scale of people who are open to a left politics that’s a bit more moderate than your average DSA member but to the left of the Democratic party mainstream,” says Robertson. There are also those—like Randall Woodfin himself—who backed Clinton in the primary, but are to the left of the Democratic mainstream and have fought since the inauguration against Trump’s policies. 

    “In the age of Trump, most Democrats are in no mood to wait around and make slow progress when so much is under attack—voters want what they believe in and they want it now,” says Dinkin of the Working Families Party. “Trump has been part of awakening a new fervor and even militancy in voters.”

    But the national media hates nothing more than “it’s complicated.” And unlike in the past, because of the decline of local newspapers, they don’t have sharp local political reporting to lean on for making sense of particular elections. Instead, narratives get picked up and run with because they are already out there. 

    The tendency to reduce the story to the “Sanders left” also exemplifies an ongoing problem of horse-race journalism. Really, though, boxing is a more apt sports metaphor than a horse race, since journalists tend to count every action or sentence from a politician as a jab, cross, or knockdown blow with the relish of a ringside announcer. Sanders, in this framework, is important because he is a once and (presumed) future presidential candidate, and therefore everything that involves him in some way or other is seen through the lens of his rising or falling power within left-of-center politics. 

    Take this recent story from Business Insider: “There’s a quiet battle between Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris.” Ostensibly a news piece about the Atlanta mayor’s race, what it actually does is take the opportunity of a (perceived) 2020 presidential candidate giving a speech in Atlanta to set up a mostly-nonexistent “battle”—not with another wing of the same party or even against a competing ideology, but against another (presumed) 2020 candidate. Sanders has backed Vincent Fort in Atlanta; Kamala Harris said some generic words of praise for the sitting mayor of the city, Reed, when she spoke there. Hardly a “battle.” But there we are.

    It is our inability to conceive of politics beyond personalities, in part, that makes such farcical articles tick. But the problem goes beyond a couple of laughably bad takes. To really understand our shifting politics, we need to understand Sanders himself as the symptom of a phenomenon that is in fact global—the failure of the neoliberal center in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, which has resulted in the collapse in country after country of the consensus between a couple of centrist ruling parties, and the rise of popular social movements to fill the vacuum left by politics that is so clearly not up to the task of finding solutions to our problems.

    In that time we have seen the rise of not just Sanders but Jeremy Corbyn in Britain, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and La France Insoumise in France, Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece, along with right-wing counterparts with similar politics to Donald Trump. In some cases, like Sanders, Corbyn, and Mélenchon, or indeed like Vincent Fort, they are people who have labored below most people’s radar for decades, building a reputation as the elected official you could call to come walk a picket line, to craft a bit of legislation that would sneak through progressive policies or one that might fail but help to move the dial a little bit leftward. In the post-2008 moment of more aggressive social movements and more dramatic shifts, those people are often being turned to by a new generation looking for leadership, while younger leaders also rise from the streets to elected office they perhaps never imagined occupying.

    The left-wing surge in local politics, in so many different cities, bears watching in part because these new mayors and council members will be tomorrow’s state-legislative leaders, gubernatorial and senatorial candidates. (Imagine Woodfin occupying Jeff Sessions’s old U.S. Senate seat some day.) But it’s also a sign of a rising tide every bit as important as the Trump movement, which has garnered so much more careful attention. Reducing them to victories for one “side” of the Democratic Party certainly does social movements no favors, either. As Chokwe Antar Lumumba said, “I do not believe electoral politics is the end; it is the means to an end.”


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    We’re All Living in Hobby Lobby’s Bible Nation
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    Hobby Lobby stores feel like a second home if you were raised evangelical. It’s Vacation Bible School and Sunday School and girls’ Bible study, located inside one shabby-chic warren. The stores’ owners, David Green and his family—like Chick-fil-A’s Dan Cathy and many before them—have layered a Christ-like veneer onto the pursuit of profit. At Hobby Lobby you can buy a Jesus cross-stitch kit or a poster that reads “This Girl Runs On Cupcakes and Jesus” alongside beads and quilting fabric; it is the store of choice for America’s church ladies, and it has, in turn, made its owners billionaires. The Lord is good—to the Greens. 

    BIBLE NATION: THE UNITED STATES OF HOBBY LOBBY by Candida R. Moss and Joel S. BadenPrinceton University Press, 240 pp., $29.95

    David Green is an exemplar among Christian businessmen. He stands out not just for his improbably large craft empire, now worth $4.3 billion, or for his religiosity but for the scale of his ambitions. Green and his family have a clear set of beliefs that, they hold, should shape American life: The U.S. is a Christian nation, the archaeological record supports an evangelical Protestant view of the Bible, and Americans should be compelled by law to live according to this interpretation. And they are determined to prove it. In Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, Green’s company argued before the Supreme Court that employers should not have to provide insurance coverage for contraception, if they had a religious objection, and he won. 

    The Supreme Court ruling was far from the pinnacle of the Greens’ ambition, as theology professors Candida Moss and Joel Baden show in their new book Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby. The Greens “didn’t just want to turn their mom-and-pop homecrafts store into a billion-dollar empire,” Moss and Baden write, “or even merely give back to society once they had made it big. They wanted to play a role in the course of human history. As Mark Rutland, the former president of Oral Roberts University, put it, ‘the Greens are Kingdom-givers.’”

    Almost since they opened their first store in 1972, the Greens have mounted a multi-pronged and well-financed campaign to give credibility to and spread their version of human history. Moss and Baden have written the first comprehensive account of that campaign, focusing mostly on the Green Collection, which has purchased a still-unknown quantity of Biblical artifacts; the Green Scholars Initiative, which analyzes those artifacts and produces its own academic curriculum; and the Museum of the Bible, which will open in Washington, D.C. this fall to display the Green Collection’s artifacts. These projects provide a crucial foundation for the family’s theology. For the rest of their evangelical beliefs to make sense—their stance on the role of religion in American public life, for example—they must first defend their understanding of the Bible as a consistent, and literally true, historical record. This is not scholarship for the sake of learning or enquiry, but rather an attempt to prove definitively the truth of conservative evangelicalism.

    Exhaustively reported and scrupulously fair, Bible Nation doubles as a portrait of conviction: The Greens may well be the most sincere and most-frequently misguided activists in America. “If they are culture warriors,” say Moss and Baden, “that has been the case for many years.” They’ve successfully shaped the culture they want through the labor practices in their stores, through their philanthropic choices and through their proselytizing mission. Real piety and strategic canninessit’s a familiar blend. The Green family thinks they need to build their America, but we’re already in it and we have been for a long time.


    David Green is a preacher’s son, born in Kansas in 1941. He has never deviated from the faith of his youth, and credits God for orchestrating his rise from poverty-stricken child to billionaire adult. According to one detailed profile in Forbes, Green started his working life as a stock boy, then worked for a five-and-dime store before opening the first Hobby Lobby. Rough patches notwithstanding, Hobby Lobby evolved into a corporate behemoth. But Green’s ambitions were never purely financial. A devout Pentecostal Christian, Green believes that capitalism and Christianity not only work together but require each other. 

    Moss and Baden correctly connect this belief to the prosperity gospel, which frames financial success as proof of divine blessing. When the Greens make money, they can say God is responsible. This also gives the Greens a perfect justification for almost any restriction they enforce in the workplace. It certainly worked in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell. With its ruling, the Supreme Court delivered the Greens further proof that God blessed their endeavors; the favorable justices took on the form of Moses, handing down divine law. The Greens already believed that moral justifications underpinned their practices; the high court added legal justification too. 

    When dissent has risen up within the Hobby Lobby empire, the Greens have proved adept at quashing it. Moss and Baden point to a number of lawsuits filed by former employees, alleging gender discrimination, discrimination against employees with disabilities and illegally long hours. We don’t know the outcomes of these complaints because they disappeared into mediation: Hobby Lobby employees reportedly sign an agreement that they will take complaints to a religious or secular arbitration process. Moss and Baden call this unusual, but it isn’t really; many corporations force disgruntled staff into arbitration to keep complaints out of court, and they do it because the arbitration process favors them. The results are private—something the authors do note—and so the Greens’ reputation remains untarnished.

    David Green is reportedly worth $6.3 billion now, thanks to this management style and to the American thirst for tchotchkes. But rather than donate the familial fortune to causes that broadly benefit society, Moss and Baden say the Greens restrict their largesse to charities that meet strict doctrinal standards. Indeed, David Green aspires to cosmic impact. “I want to know that I have affected people for eternity,” he has said. “I believe I am. I believe once someone knows Christ as their personal savior, I’ve affected eternity. I matter 10 billion years from now.” David’s son Steve Green, who is the current president of Hobby Lobby and who emerged from Burwell the family’s most public face, speaks often of a Christian “worldview” and his desire to spread it. “The Greens focus exclusively on spreading the Good News,” the authors explain. The OneHope Foundation, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Every Home for Christ: The Greens are committed to the Bible, and want everyone else to be as well. 


    In July, the Green family made headlines for the other ways they spend their money. After a federal investigation, the Greens had to return $1.6 million worth of clay cuneiform tablets they had bought from Iraq. The money did not, as some initially reported, fund ISIS; but it did prop up a thriving market in looted antiquities and hasten the cultural predation of Iraq. Once these details emerged, the Greens were ordered to pay a $3 million fine to the federal government for smuggling items out of Iraq and mislabeling the shipments; the Greens had called the artifacts “tile samples” and claimed they were purchased from Turkey, not Iraq. “We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled,” Steve Green told NBC News at the time. 

    Moss and Baden say the Greens started collecting artifacts in 2009, after repeated pitches from Jonathan David Shipman and former Cornerstone University professor David Carroll. According to the authors, Shipman wanted to keep his own Bible museum project afloat; Carroll tells them that Shipman managed to nudge the Greens onboard by pointing out to them that there would be financial benefits to purchasing artifacts. As the authors note, antiquities constantly increase in value, meaning that items in the Greens’ collection are worth more over time, and there are other benefits. “The rationale, again, is a financial one,” they write. “These are objects that can be bought relatively cheaply, but can be valued quite highly for tax purposes.” The project has since expanded beyond Carroll and Shipman, neither of whom are currently associated with either the Green Collection or the Museum of the Bible. But the Greens adopted their ideas with force. By 2010, the Greens had already collected 30,000 pieces—a significant investment for a family that, barely a year before, possessed no real collection at all. 

    The prospect of Steve Green as Bible-thumping Indiana Jones is a tantalizing vision. But in Moss and Baden’s telling, the family have long been victims of bad actors and their own incompetence. This is where Bible Nation delves deepest, revealing the extent to which the idea that some things must be verified, rather than taken by faith, contradicts the family’s beliefs. The Greens admit that the world of archaeology and papyrology is not their world; that they rely on “experts” to inform them of an object’s authenticity and importance. Yet this has repeatedly led them into trouble as the claims of their own experts have been disputed, and the authenticity of their collections questioned.

    Many of the Greens’ prize artifacts are of questionable provenance, Moss and Baden report. Reputable collectors typically establish an artifact’s provenance, or its history of ownership, to confirm that it is authentic, and that it hasn’t been looted from its country of origin. Considering the Greens’ intention to display these items in a museum setting, one would expect them to place particular emphasis on the provenance of their collection. But this is unfortunately not the case. Moss and Baden thoroughly document a disturbing catalogue of errors committed by the Greens and their hand-picked scholars; there are items acquired from eBay sellers, then analyzed by students and academics affiliated with the Green Scholars Initiative despite the fact many, if not most, have little experience in papyrology or related fields. 

    This means the Greens now possess a fair number of items that lack verified authenticity. Among them: A selection of purported Dead Sea Scrolls. Moss and Baden write that the Green scrolls belong to a “wave” of Dead Sea Scrolls that came on the market in 2002—and that “none” have “any reasonable provenance.” One scholar tells the authors that some of these newly available scrolls are likely forgeries. And there’s more trouble. Green scholars repeatedly destroyed mummy masks in hopes they would find Christian papyri, a practice they assure the authors they’ve stopped. One individual linked to the Green Collection claimed he smuggled a tenth-century psalter across international borders in his luggage. 

    Many of these artifacts will be on display on the Museum of the Bible, which is set to open this fall despite ongoing controversy over the validity of both the items and the way the Museum intends to display them. The Greens claim the Museum will be non-sectarian, but the act of presenting the Bible on its own, without commentary, is specifically Protestant. Though the Greens have worked with Jewish and Catholic leaders not only for the Museum of the Bible but for previous exhibits, Moss and Baden conclude that they’ve unwittingly facilitated a fundamentally Protestant endeavor—a version of “Protestant triumphalism,” they call it.


    Bible Nation is, in part, a family saga. The Greens possess a multi-generational vision not just of a Christian America but of a Christian world, and they suffer from a striking inability to see its contradictions and flaws. The same trait eventually doomed the Greens’ attempt to create a Bible curriculum for public schools, which they tried and failed to place in Mustang, Oklahoma public schools. As I and others reported at the time, the curriculum violated basic First Amendment requirements to teach the Bible as literature or history, not as true doctrine; the Mustang school district eventually dropped the plan. The Greens have since revamped the class, Moss and Baden say, and though it’s more secular than its predecessor it still presents an essentially Protestant view of the Bible. Judging from Moss and Baden’s account, the new curriculum is unlikely to survive a First Amendment challenge if a public school ever tries to take it up.  

    Steve Green does not seem to understand that the new curriculum has many of the problems of the old one. “My family has no problem supporting those that are out there evangelizing, we do that. But this one is a different role, it has a different purpose. A public school is not the place to evangelize, that’s what the church’s role is; a public school is for education to teach the facts,” he says. In Green’s view, the curriculum he has created does present the facts. He is similarly convinced that the Museum of the Bible is non-sectarian, just as he is convinced that the Constitution does not stipulate a strong wall between church and state. Green genuinely believes he is telling the truth. “We’re buyers of items to tell the story. We pass on more than we buy because it doesn’t fit what we are trying to tell,” he says of his artifacts. It’s not clear that he understands this to be the work of a propagandist. 

    The Greens are not the sole creators of the fun-house mirror world we inhabit, but they help sustain it. American evangelicals embrace them; the Supreme Court takes them seriously; Donald Trump, a man David Green enthusiastically endorsed, is president and panders to the family’s political allies. The Greens can say whatever they want. This is their nation, and we are their subjects. 

Green


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    CA Governor Jerry Brown signed a new carpet recycling bill that requires manufacturers to implement programs for carpet stewardship. The post Rug Recycling Bill Requiring Carpet Manufacturers to Set Stewardship Programs Passes in CA appeared first on Environmental Leader.


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    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Footwear company Wolverine faces potential lawsuits from related to toxic tannery sludge laced with PFCs recently found in an unlined landfill. The sludge was apparently dumped by The post Wolverine’s Decades-Old Toxic Tannery Sludge Dumping Could Lead to Lawsuits appeared first on Environmental Leader.


  • Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14929

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::is_isegment_nz_nc() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 3730

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14967

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14968

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::entities_decode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9190

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::absolutize_url() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14958

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_IRI::absolutize() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 9103

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::element_implode() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14959

    Deprecated: Non-static method SimplePie_Misc::get_element() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/simplepie/simplepie.php on line 14949

    Increasing environmental consciousness among consumers, along with more stringent regulations, are driving the sustainable packaging market, and will continue to do so at least through 2024, according to a new study The post Sustainable Packaging Market Growth Driven by Preference, Regulations appeared first on Environmental Leader.


Deprecated: Non-static method GantryModulesRenderer::display() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 678

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Deprecated: Non-static method GantryModulesRenderer::display() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 678
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Deprecated: Non-static method GantrySessionParamOverride::store() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 454

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryCookieParamOverride::store() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 455

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryCookieParamOverride::_flushOldCookies() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/params/overrides/gantrycookieparamoverride.class.php on line 40

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryGZipper::processCSSFiles() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 462

Deprecated: Non-static method GantryGZipper::processJsFiles() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/pissedof/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/gantry.class.php on line 463