• print • Feb/Mar 2020

    Norm Corps

    Whether or not he was born that way, Ross Douthat is a defeated man. The child of hippie aspiring writers—a father who became an attorney and a mother who became a homemaker (both became published writers late in life: the father a poet, the mother a contributor to the Christian journal First Things)—Douthat arrived at Harvard in 1998 yearning to live the life of the mind and found himself among a horde of grade-grubbing careerists, most of them from affluent families, biding their time until they filled their reserved slots among the neoliberal power elite. This state of affairs became the

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    This Machine Kills Fascists

    When Hosea Hudson, a labor organizer and member of the Communist Party (CP) in Birmingham, Alabama, approached potential recruits, he didn’t minimize the stakes of what he was asking them to do: “You couldn’t pitty-pat with people. We had [to] tell people—when you join, it’s just like the army, but it’s not the army of the bosses, it’s the army of the working class.” For a black worker in the Deep South of the 1930s, there was no way to justify lying to fellow workers about what they were signing up for. Assassinations of labor organizers, often simply recorded as lynchings, were not unheard

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    They Meant Well

    As we enter what feels like the second or third decade of the 2020 presidential campaign, a question hovers menacingly over American politics: Can liberals get a grip? Three years into the Trump era, it cannot have escaped anyone that the country’s political system is in the throes of a major crisis. Yet the mainstream of the Democratic Party remains bogged down, lurching back and forth between melancholy and hysteria. “The Republic is in danger!” the Rachel Maddows of the world intone, but aside from a Trump impeachment that has no hope of actually removing him from office, the solutions on

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    The Secret Sharer

    Journalists often describe Chelsea Manning as a “whistle-blower.” This is understandable—I’ve called her that myself. The act for which Manning is best known, for which she has been celebrated and persecuted, is usually understood as a bold instance of whistle-blowing. But this is not how Manning primarily describes herself. On her Twitter profile, she identifies as a “Network Security Expert. Fmr. Intel Analyst. Trans Woman” and, first on the list, “Grand Jury Resister.” Grand jury resistance is the reason for Manning’s present incarceration. Last March, she was taken into federal custody for

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    Automatic for the People

    In the downstairs bar of a Brighton comedy club, I sat with sixty or so activists clustered around tables to discuss the four-day workweek. They were participating in The World Transformed, a radical gathering held alongside the Labour Party’s annual conference, where the party’s left wing hashes out proposals that it hopes Labour will adopt. Indeed, by the time this panel met, a shorter workweek had already been announced by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell in his floor speech. The people in that club, then, were thinking about implementation, as well as dreaming about what they’d do with more

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    Home Sick

    In April 2014, a group of protesters in Oakland blockaded a purple coach bus that was transporting Yahoo! employees to their Silicon Valley offices. Demonstrating against the tech-fueled inequalities in the Bay Area, one member of the protest climbed on top and intentionally vomited down the bus’s front windshield. Shortly after the incident, Oakland resident Sonja Trauss read a TechCrunch essay explaining how the “vomiting anarchist” had been born out of decades of inequitable Bay Area housing policies. Trauss, a thirty-two-year-old former teacher and “marginally employed rabble-rouser,”

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    Socialism Butterfly

    It seems like all the kids—and many of their parents and grandparents, too—are socialists these days. The reasons are well known: a detoxification of the term socialism nearly three decades after the Soviet Union’s collapse; low wages and crushing student debt; and a newfound sense of possibility sparked by the rebirth of Left activism through the Democratic Socialists of America. The result: poll after poll showing a plurality of young people suspicious of capitalism and open to radical alternatives, even if they aren’t exactly sure what the latter entails.

    These developments are heartening

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  • excerpt • January 15, 2020

    An Unblemished Record of Defeat

    The United States, we are told, is the most powerful nation in world history, the sole superpower, winner of the Cold War, the “indispensable nation,” a “hyperpower” that has achieved “full spectrum dominance” and “command of the commons” over all other military forces on Earth. Yet, the United States failed to achieve its objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan, was defeated outright in Vietnam, and since World War II won clear victories only in the first Gulf War of 1991 and in smaller “police actions” in the Dominican Republic in 1965, Grenada in 1983, and Panama in 1989. How can we explain this

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2020

    It’s Not Easy Being Green

    Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything (2014) is animated by a counterintuitive insight: It has long been conservatives, rather than the Left or the environmental movement, who have best understood the political implications of global warming. In a chapter titled “The Right Is Right,” she describes attending a Koch-funded conference on climate change in 2011 and hearing a conservative politician warn the crowd that the climate movement was really “a green trojan horse, whose belly is full with red Marxist socioeconomic doctrine.” If only, if only, Klein sighed. If the greens joined forces with

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2020

    The Thick Blue Line

    The first test call using America’s 911 emergency system was placed on February 16, 1968. To fanfare in the press, a state legislator sitting in the City Hall of the small Alabama town of Haleyville dialed in to the local police station. His call was answered by a group of august notables—a US representative, a telephone-company executive, and president of the Alabama Public Service Commission Theophilus Eugene Connor. Better remembered today by his nickname, “Bull” Connor was an outspoken white supremacist who believed desegregation was a communist plot; just five years earlier, as commissioner

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2020

    Preaching to the Choir

    An unseasonable snowstorm hit Casper, Wyoming, the day of Matthew Shepard’s funeral. The twenty-one-year-old gay University of Wyoming student had been robbed, beaten, tied to a fence, and left for dead in a homophobic attack by two men. His parents, Judy and Dennis, were able to fly from Saudi Arabia, where Dennis was working, just in time to be by his side as his heart failed. As they pushed themselves through “a week when absolutely nothing made sense,” they were told that a group they’d never heard of, the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church, was planning to picket their son’s funeral.

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2020

    The Grand Reckoning

    Readers in the distant future will surely note that a good number of books published in the late 2010s registered how dramatically the political landscape shifted while they were being written. Philosopher Susan Neiman’s Learning from the Germans is a case in point. The director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Neiman decided to take a fellowship in Mississippi midway through Obama’s second term, not long after the murder of nine African American churchgoers in Charleston. In the shooting’s wake, Republican governors of South Carolina and Alabama got rid of the Confederate battle flags that

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