The Atlantic »

In Right-Wing Media, the Pivot Didn’t Happen

April 6, 2020 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Mainstream news descriptions of the right-wing media’s approach to COVID-19 typically go something like this: At first, prominent conservatives on television and radio downplayed the threat; only when Donald Trump himself acknowledged that the coronavirus was likely to kill large numbers of Americans did his enablers on Fox News and talk radio reverse course.

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The Atlantic »

Trump Finally Recognized His Mistake

April 1, 2020 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

The American people have done Donald Trump a giant favor. By telling pollsters they want to extend social-distancing restrictions, they’ve persuaded him—for the moment—to act in his own political self-interest. Trump has great difficulty accepting short-term pain in exchange for long-term gain—even though in the case of COVID-19, doing so is his best reelection strategy. Luckily for him, ordinary Americans are demanding that he do exactly that.

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The Atlantic »

Trump’s Break With China Has Deadly Consequences

March 28, 2020 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

The lesson of COVID-19, influential politicians and commentators are claiming, is that the United States must delink itself from China. “China unleashed this plague on the world,” Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas recently told Sean Hannity, “and China has to be held accountable.” Cotton, who has proposed legislation to ban Americans from buying Chinese pharmaceuticals, isn’t alone. Representative Jim Banks of Indiana has urged Donald Trump to boost tariffs on Chinese products and put the money—which he incorrectly thinks would come from Chinese exporters rather than American importers—into a fund for Americans hurt by the coronavirus. In a recent essay in The American Interest, the political scientist Andrew Michta used the virus to demand a “hard decoupling” from China. Citing that essay approvingly, my Atlantic colleague Shadi Hamid recently argued, “After the crisis, whenever after is, the relationship with China cannot and should not go back to normal.”

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The Atlantic »

The Democratic Party Wasn’t Ripe for a Takeover

March 4, 2020 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Not long ago, commentators were declaring that “Bernie Sanders’ revolution is coming” and “It’s Bernie’s party’s now.” Pundits were delivering eulogies over the supposedly lifeless body of Joe Biden’s campaign. The moderate candidates in the Democratic presidential race who hadn’t yet dropped out were lagging behind Sanders. The only chance of stopping the Vermont senator’s socialist takeover of the Democratic Party, aides to Michael Bloomberg insisted, was for Biden to exit the race.

Now, over the course of four days, Biden has won at least nine states and, when all the results from Super Tuesday are tabulated, may end up with a delegate lead. As of late last night, FiveThirtyEight projected that he’s almost twice as likely as Sanders to finish the race with the most pledged delegates. It’s as dramatic a turnaround as has ever occurred in a presidential primary campaign. What happened?

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The Atlantic »

The Two Things That Sank Buttigieg’s Candidacy

March 2, 2020 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Figuring out why Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the presidential race yesterday is easy. He had gotten trounced in South Carolina, appeared likely to get trounced on Super Tuesday, and, according to FiveThirtyEight, had a less than 1 percent chance of winning a plurality of pledged delegates overall.

The more interesting question is how Buttigieg—who dazzled the national media, captivated big donors, and came close to winning the first two primary contests—found himself in this unenviable spot. The answer says a lot about how the Democratic Party’s relationship to money and expectations surrounding race have changed over the past 30 years.

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Jewish Currents »

The Scarlet B

February 26, 2020 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

BERNIE SANDERS’S ANNOUNCEMENT on Sunday that he’ll be skipping AIPAC’s annual policy conference hardly came as a surprise. He didn’t attend in 2016, and his progressive rival, Elizabeth Warren, had already announced that she’d be a no-show. The Intercept had recently reported that AIPAC was indirectly funnelling money to the Democratic Majority for Israel, a lobbying group that has run ads calling Sanders unelectable. Candidates don’t generally appear before organizations that are trying to sink their campaigns.

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The Atlantic »

Bernie’s Greatest Weapon

February 20, 2020 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

If the Democratic National Committee is trying to rig the presidential race against Bernie Sanders, it’s doing a lousy job.

By letting Michael Bloomberg into last night’s debate in Nevada, the DNC did the Vermont senator an enormous favor. Sanders is clearly the Democratic front-runner. He tied for first place in Iowa; he won New Hampshire; he’s ahead in national polls; he’s way ahead in Nevada, and he’s way ahead in California, the biggest Super Tuesday prize. As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump recently noted, Sanders is en route to finishing the Super Tuesday primaries—which occur in less than two weeks—with an “uncatchable” lead. FiveThirtyEight gives him a 56 percent chance of winning a plurality of pledged delegates. That’s more than three times as high as Michael Bloomberg’s.

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The Atlantic »

Regular Democrats Just Aren’t Worried About Bernie

February 19, 2020 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Judging by media coverage and the comments of party luminaries, you might think Democrats are bitterly polarized over Bernie Sanders’s presidential bid. Last month, Hillary Clinton declared that “nobody likes” the Vermont senator. Last week, James Carville, who ran Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, said he was “scared to death” of the Sanders campaign, which he likened to “a cult.” Since the beginning of the year, news organization after news organization has speculated that Sanders’s success may set off a Democraticcivil war.”   

But polls of Democratic voters show nothing of the sort. Among ordinary Democrats, Sanders is strikingly popular, even with voters who favor his rivals. He sparks less opposition—in some cases far less—than his major competitors. On paper, he appears well positioned to unify the party should he win its presidential nomination.

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Jewish Currents »

“The One Issue That Matters”

February 13, 2020 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

THE CRITICS who think Bernie Sanders isn’t Jewish enough—or isn’t Jewish in the right way—now have a clear alternative in the Democratic presidential race: Michael Bloomberg. Not only is the former New York mayor rising in the polls; he’s also contrasting his Jewish identity with that of the senator from Vermont. Late last month, Bloomberg sprinkled a speech at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in South Florida with the kind of religious references (the Ten Plagues, Moses descending from Mount Sinai) and cultural schmaltz (the pickles at Wolfie’s Deli) that Sanders generally eschews. “I’m not the only Jewish candidate running for president,” Bloomberg added. “But I am the only one who doesn’t want to turn America into a kibbutz.”

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The Atlantic »

Impeachment Hurt Somebody. It Wasn’t Trump.

February 6, 2020 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

The impeachment struggle is now over. Historians may one day vindicate Democrats for exposing Donald Trump’s abuse of power. But as of now, they have lost. Not only will Trump remain president, and not only does he appear stronger politically than before the impeachment battle began, but he has succeeded in doing precisely what he wanted in the first place: He tarred Joe Biden, who last year looked like Trump’s most formidable Democratic rival, with the kind of vague suspicion of wrongdoing that presidential candidates can’t easily shake.

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