Will Republican leaders finally hold Democrats accountable for their reckless rhetoric this time? After Maxine Waters delivered her latest incendiary comment calling for the harassment of Trump officials, Representative Andy Biggs introduced a bill calling for her censure. Even Paul Ryan, whose instinct is to always steer clear of any controversy, called for her to apologize. That may not seem like much, but given the Republican reluctance to confront Democrats – especially when the Democrat in question happens to be a woman and a minority – it is an improvement. Nevertheless, if history is any guide, the GOP will back down and once again will let the Democrats off the hook.
“We live in an overheated political and cultural environment, passions are running high, social media gives people a false sense of insulation and even anonymity, and nobody is so perfect that they have not posted or published or engaged in something foolish that they have come to regret. An open society is one that has to deal in second, even third or fourth, chances. In order for this to take place, businesses must stop overreacting to angry, unrepresentative mobs on social media. It is the same instant-reaction mentality driving the awful incentives behind quarterly capitalism. We must learn to think again in the big-picture, and for the long-term. Partisans must also stop engaging in tit-for-tat; we have to have enough people who can stand up and declare that upholding these principles is more important than getting revenge on the other side.”
“Let us recall again that in 1994, President Bill Clinton, in America's first crack at treating the slave-state like a real country, crafted the 'Agreed Framework' with Kim Jung-il. The failed 'framework' promised that the regime would never pursue nuclear weapons. At the time, the deal was made with a very pleasing commencement, and the anointed ones -- the realists, the liberal internationalists, the journalists and pundits -- all told us that the deal represented progress toward peace, that nobody should root against it; that the hawks were proven wrong again, that those telling us we are being conned are rooting against peace, that it really is useful to talk to our enemies. The real mystery today, then, is: Why do people think we have never tried simply talking to the Kim regime before? And why are skeptics of this entire endeavor treated as cynics?”
“It would also be mistaken to blame Trump for America's current isolation, as the pundit class has done ever since the acrimonious conclusion of the recent G-7 meeting. The president is simply carrying out what Americans have voted for for the last two decades. In 2000, George W. Bush promised a more "humble" foreign policy, and ran on ending America's role as the world's policeman. The terrorist attack on 9/11 caused Americans to back a more interventionist foreign policy, but it was a temporary reprieve. In 2008, Barack Obama was able to defeat the Clinton machine and war hero John McCain by promising to bring the troops home and renegotiate NAFTA. Eight years later, and again the candidate who pledged to end free trade and military interventions prevailed over candidates who defended the status quo. If not Trump, someone else with the same foreign policy and trade views would have come along eventually. Washington cannot ignore the will of voters for eternity.”
For the foreseeable future, the Republican Party will be the party of conservatives, regardless of their ethnic and religious background, and the Democratic Party will remain the same for liberals. The days of the WASPs versus “rum, Romanism, and rebellion” are over, and we will have to make do with what we have. Polarization is here to stay -- but there are steps, though small and mostly on a personal level, that can be taken to alleviate some of its more corrosive effects.
It has been a tumultuous three months in Italian politics, complete with high drama, plot twists, and the breaking of well-established norms. Just as events seemed to be spinning out of control, all the key players were able to step back from the brink and engineer a happy ending – especially for the populists. It was never supposed have turned out this way. The Italian establishment took every precaution to make sure that the populists would never be able to enter the halls of power – or that if they did, they would be kept on a tight leash. In the end, the unthinkable happened. The two populist parties – Five Star Movement on the Left and La Lega (The League) on the Right – came together, agreed on a legislative agenda for the next five years, and formed the first populist government in Western Europe. It is the old establishment that finds itself on the outside looking in.
What will disabuse Americans of the notion that the president 'runs the economy'? Depending on one's party, good economic news is attributed to the president or else to his predecessor of the opposite party, and vice versa for bad economic news. In reality the president usually has little direct effect on the economy for better or for worse, and the tendency to credit or blame him has more to do with people's psychological need for a figurehead to explain the direction of complex forces beyond their understanding or control.
Nearly two years ago, I wrote a piece arguing that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign had taken to the national level the same electoral strategy as Wendy Davis’ losing 2014 campaign for Governor of Texas. Both Hillary and Wendy pinned their hope for victory on women and turning out a record number of Latino voters. To achieve their objective, both relied on portraying their respective Republican opponents as misogynist, bigoted, and simply too extreme to govern. I concluded my article by raising the question of whether Hillary would suffer the same fate as Davis, and she did. Remarkably, the Democrats have decided that the surest way to win control of Congress this year is to adopt the same tactics, rhetoric, and policy positions that have delivered two losses. Will the third time be the charm? Doubtful.
That ABBA is reuniting after nearly 40 years comes at an uncanny time in my life. Last autumn I had a major ABBA phase, during which I listened to all of their albums in-full several times and gained an appreciation for them rivaling my other pop favorites, like Madonna. I like their standards -- like 'Dancing Queen' and 'Lay All Your Love On Me' -- and their deep cuts -- like 'Kisses of Fire' and 'Like An Angel Passing Through My Room.' I love their final three albums in particular (and their final pair of stand-alone singles), especially the disco-fest 'Voulez-Vous' and the bittersweet 'The Visitors,' on which a mere three songs can be called uptempo. I've seen 'Mamma Mia' in D.C. and in Las Vegas, and grew up with the incredible ABBA Gold album. So it's as a hardcore, lifelong ABBA fan that I say: I would really rather this not happen.