The Atlantic »

But What About China?

August 1, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

There was a post-superpower quality to this week’s Democratic debates. On both nights, foreign policy came up near the end, and the discussion focused mostly on the need to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, avoid war with Iran and, in Michael Bennet’s words, “invest in America again.” That’s fine, as far as it goes. But there was strikingly little discussion about America’s role in upholding a particular balance of power in the world. It was almost as if these Democratic candidates were running for prime minister of Canada.

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The Atlantic »

Democratic Moderates Fade Into the Background

July 31, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Last night’s Democratic debate showed how America’s political parties have turned upside down. At center stage stood Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, making arguments about decriminalizing illegal border crossings and abolishing private health insurance that would have sounded fantastical just a few years ago. Throwing darts from the edges were John Delaney, Steve Bullock, John Hickenlooper, and Tim Ryan—candidates garnering less than 1 percent in national polls—whose relatively centrist views sounded like Barack Obama’s.

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The Atlantic »

Trump Is Making Up Reasons to Stoke Racial Fears

July 29, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Over the past two weeks, as President Donald Trump has picked fights with Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and now Elijah Cummings, a consensus has emerged: Trump has begun his reelection campaign. He’s stoking bigotry to motivate his conservative white base.

It makes sense. But if Trump is launching an offensive, he’s also trying to solve a problem: He has less material. Over the course of Trump’s 2016 campaign, the United States and its allies experienced spasms of deadly violence, which helped him convince white Christian Americans that only he could protect them from a supposed threat from Muslims and blacks. Today, although America still experiences plenty of violence—mass shootings, for instance—it’s not the kind that fits Trump’s narrative. So instead of exploiting incendiary events, he has to create them.

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The Forward »

The Real Reason So Many Republicans Love Israel? Their Own White Supremacy

July 29, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

If you listened earlier this month to Republican responses to Donald Trump’s call for Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley to “go back” to the “places from which they came,” you noticed something odd. Trump’s defenders kept mentioning Israel.

“They hate Israel,”replied Lindsey Graham when asked about Trump’s attacks on The Squad. Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin called Omar and Tlaib “anti-Israel.” Trump himself responded to the controversy by declaring that Omar “hates Israel.”

This is strange. As reprehensible as it is to demand that an American politician leave America for allegedly expressing insufficient patriotism, the demand is at least familiar.

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The Atlantic »

By Republican Standards, Almost Nothing Is Racist

July 19, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Most of the time, conservatives and Republicans want the bar for what constitutes bigotry to be set extremely high. When President Donald Trump tweeted last weekend that four nonwhite Democrats in Congress should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” he offered a textbook example of racism. Trump’s own Equal Employment Opportunity Commission uses the phrase Go back to where you came from as one of its examples of discrimination based on national origin. Yet Trump insisted that “those Tweets were NOT Racist”—even as he doubled down on them by launching an attack on Representative Ilhan Omar that prompted rally-goers in North Carolina on Wednesday night to chant “Send her back!

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The Atlantic »

Biden Stops Playing It Safe

July 15, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

If Joe Biden revives his flagging presidential campaign, journalists may record that the revival began this weekend in New Hampshire.

In a series of speeches, Biden finally did what he needed to do weeks ago: He attacked his rivals on health care. He defended the Affordable Care Act, and argued that Democrats should build on it—presumably with some form of public option—rather than embrace a Medicare for All system that bans private insurance. He went after Bernie Sanders by name. “Bernie’s been very honest about it,” Biden declared. “He’s said you’re going to have to raise taxes on the middle class. He says it’s going to end all private insurance.”

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The Forward »

Joe Biden’s Moral Cowardice On Israel

July 12, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

What politicians don’t say is often as important as what they do. In his foreign policy speech on Thursday at The City University of New York, Joe Biden warned about the “Rapid advance of authoritarianism, nationalism and illiberal tendencies around the world — not just in Russia and China but among our allies, in places like Turkey, the Philippines, and Hungary.”

Notice what’s missing here. Biden is right that the governments of Turkey, the Philippines and Hungary are increasingly contemptuous of human rights and the rule of law. He could have added India, Poland, Brazil and even Italy to the list.

But the most glaring exception is Israel.

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The Atlantic »

What the Measles Epidemic Really Says About America

July 12, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

In two essays, “Illness as Metaphor” in 1978 and “AIDS and Its Metaphors” in 1988, the critic Susan Sontag observed that you can learn a lot about a society from the metaphors it uses to describe disease. She also suggested that disease itself can serve as a metaphor—a reflection of the society through which it travels. In other words, the way certain illnesses spread reveals something not just about a nation’s physiological health but also about its cultural and political health. For instance, AIDS would not have ravaged America as fully as it did without institutionalized homophobia, which inclined many Americans to see the disease as retribution for gay sex.

Now another virus is offering insights into the country’s psychic and civic condition. Two decades ago, measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. Yet in the first five months of this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 1,000 cases—more than occurred from 2000 to 2010.

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The Atlantic »

Conservatives Conjure Up Liberal Support for Antifa Violence

July 4, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

On June 29, a video appeared showing masked activists wearing black clothing—the garb commonly associated with “antifa,” the self-described anti-fascist movement—assaulting the conservative journalist Andy Ngo in Portland, Oregon. As if in unison, conservative publications published articles accusing the “left,” “liberal journalists,” and “reporters” of condoning the attack.

That’s a disturbing charge. Luckily, there’s little evidence it’s true. Indeed, the articles in question say less about widespread liberal approval of antifa attacks than about the right’s need to conjure it up.

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The Atlantic »

For Democrats, Health Care Is Easy, but Immigration Is Hard

July 2, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Among the many things we’ve learned so far in the presidential campaign is this: The Democratic candidates are talking more honestly about health care than about immigration. To develop a coherent approach to immigration in an era of rising asylum claims, Democrats need to explain—among other things—whom they would and wouldn’t let in. But Donald Trump has made that discussion extraordinarily difficult. In the shadow of his brutal policies and bigoted appeals, Democrats are wary of spelling out whom they would deport. That has led to a debate that’s evasive and vague.

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