Archive

May 11th, 2016

A Confession of Liberal Intolerance

    We progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table — er, so long as they aren’t conservatives.

    Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious. We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.

    OK, that’s a little harsh. But consider George Yancey, a sociologist who is black and evangelical.

    “Outside of academia I faced more problems as a black,” he told me. “But inside academia I face more problems as a Christian, and it is not even close.”

    I’ve been thinking about this because on Facebook recently I wondered aloud whether universities stigmatize conservatives and undermine intellectual diversity. The scornful reaction from my fellow liberals proved the point.

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Make America empathetic again

    The first rule in elections is: Go for the votes you can get. By that measure, Hillary Clinton is right to try to put the old Obama coalition on steroids.

     Donald Trump will expand the Democrats' opportunities among non-white Americans, and produce Clinton landslides among Latinos. They have good reason to fear and despise the man who has demeaned them.

     And watch Republicans for Clinton become a major force in American politics, an alliance of mostly well-off, well-educated voters -- plus women of all classes. The members of the party of Lincoln who support Clinton will see that against Trump, she is the safe and even, by the non-ideological definition of the term, conservative choice.

    But Clinton also has to challenge Trump for at least a share among angry and struggling white working-class voters with real economic grievances. Their votes matter if she wants to keep Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania in the Democratic column.

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Trump's sacking of the GOP

    The Republican Party this week is like fifth-century Rome must have been after the Visigoths stormed the city's gates. Anarchy and confusion reign, there is the sound of anguished wailing, and political leaders are making an urgent calculation: Resistance or collaboration?

    The suddenness of Donald Trump's final victory over the GOP establishment was shocking. On Monday, Pollyannas were still convincing themselves that Trump could be thwarted at a contested convention. Within 48 hours, he had won the Indiana primary in a landslide and his last two opponents, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, had surrendered. Even Trump couldn't have expected it to happen so fast.

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The November reckonings

    Now that the contours of the general election are reasonably predictable, it is time to start thinking about the tripartite institutional reckoning that should come in November's aftermath -- for the media, Republicans and Democrats.

    For the media, the assessment is simple, and unsparing: We underperformed our constitutionally protected role. Sure, every campaign cycle features hand-wringing over the primacy of horse race over substance.

    This one feels demonstrably worse. Mesmerized by the bright, shiny object that is Donald Trump, we collectively failed to plumb his gaping lack of policy knowledge and proposals. Not completely, just not enough, and way too late. And not just his: Distracted by Trump, we let the whole field off the hook.

    The purely commercial explanation for this dereliction would be that the media, television in particular, didn't want to kill the golden goose of traffic. That's too simplistic -- and too sinister.

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Sheryl Sandberg, corporate titan and single mom

    Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, would be the first to acknowledge that she is the world's least-typical single mom. But on this, her second Mother's Day in that unexpected status -- Sandberg's husband, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly last May, at age 47 -- she is using her Facebook platform, and that tragedy, to reassess and highlight the challenges of single parenthood.

    Sandberg's "Lean In," her guide to women navigating a male-dominated workplace and balancing the demands of work and family, brightly proclaimed the importance of choosing well in one's spouse. Picking the right partner, she wrote, is "the single most important career decision that a woman makes."

     Sandberg described how Goldberg, at the time of his death CEO of SurveyMonkey, pressed her to ask for a parking space near her office at Google when she was hugely pregnant, and later insisted that she could  -- she had to -- negotiate compensation with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg despite fears of alienating her would-be boss.

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Democracy, It Isn't

    Despite my long involvement in civic education, the Electoral College has hardly been in my sight. It was just one of those things that we have always had. My first reaction upon learning that Al Gore won the popular vote but George Bush got the electoral vote was that it would bring a fresh look at the system. A brush-up of history brought the information that it had happened three other times, albeit it more than a century before, and no one seemed to think it mattered much.

    It did not cause more than a short-lived interest that Bush was actually given the office of the President of the United States by a Supreme Court's ruling preventing a recount of the questionable Florida vote that could have sent Florida's Electoral College votes to the winner of the national majority, thereby electing Al Gore. It is extremely difficult to change the Constitution but it has been done some 27 times.

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May 8th

Don't mainstream Trump

    Donald Trump's Republican primary triumph means that this cannot be a normal election. Americans who see our country as a model of tolerance, inclusion, rationality and liberty must come together across party lines to defeat him decisively.

    Many forces will be at work in the coming weeks to normalize Trump -- and, yes, the media will play a big role in this. On both the right and the left, there will be strong temptations to go along.

     Refusing to fall into line behind Trump will ask more of conservatives. Beating Trump means electing Hillary Clinton, the last thing most conservatives want to do. It would likely lead to a liberal majority on the Supreme Court and the ratification of the achievements of President Obama's administration, including the Affordable Care Act. Conservative opposition could deepen a popular revulsion against Trump that in turn could help Democrats take over the Senate and gain House seats.

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Turkey's last shreds of balance are disappearing

    In the beginning, nearly 14 years ago, Recep Tayyip Erdogan chose a team of smart and qualified people to run Turkey with him. He now appears set to force out one of the last of that group -- Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu -- and replace him with someone more pliant. This is disastrous for Turkey, as financial markets have recognized.

    To know why, look at the issues over which Erdogan and Davutoglu -- who is no rebel or hero of a Turkish secular democracy -- have sparred, fraying what was once the tightest and subservient of political relationships to breaking point.

    The earliest split came soon after Davutoglu's appointment as Prime Minister, when he proposed an anti-corruption package in response to allegations of corruption made against Erdogan's family and closest political allies. Erdogan said the idea was premature and it was dropped.

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Trump won the stand-up competition

    Donald Trump's triumph in the race for the Republican nomination is no reason to stop seeing his act as stand-up comedy. Perhaps his remarkable run, however it ends, is a harbinger of things to come, and future races may well be won by the person with the best stand-up routine.

    Don Waisanen of the Baruch College School of Public Affairs, who has devoted himself to the study of political humor, wrote in a 2013 article that until the 1990s, "by and large, the public thought politicians were supposed to be serious."

    "From the 1990s through the present, comedy and politics have become inseparable, with candidates like Arnold Schwarzenegger announcing their gubernatorial ambitions on 'The Tonight Show,' and figures like Sarah Palin paradoxically both being mocked by and interjecting themselves into programs like 'Saturday Night Live.' This evolving trend of what some have termed infotainment continues unabated through popular programs like 'The Daily Show.' "

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Trump is on track to be the next McGovern

    Donald Trump has had the worst first day as de facto nominee of a major party since George McGovern in 1972. And we know how that ended up.

    Trump enters the general election with the worst polling numbers since polling was invented. But there's good reason to think that a lot of his negative numbers are relatively soft. Not among the ethnic groups he's insulted and their allies; he's unlikely to win them over. But plenty of Republican voters who supported other candidates during the nomination battle, and swing voters who haven't paid all that much attention yet, are likely to warm to Trump.

    Under one condition: if he is the one enthusiastically backed by his party.

    If highly visible Republicans rally around Trump, he'll wind up looking, to most Republican voters, like a relatively normal Republican candidate, and they'll support him. If not -- if they receive mixed messages -- his unfavorable ratings may never recover, and he might never make the election competitive.

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