Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
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Paul Krugman: Hope for a Green New Year
Let’s be honest with ourselves: The new Democratic majority in the House won’t be able to enact new legislation. I’ll be astonished if there are bipartisan deals on anything important — even on infrastructure, where both sides claim to want action but what the G.O.P. really wants is an excuse to privatize public assets.
So the immediate consequences of the power shift in Washington won’t involve actual policymaking; they’ll come mainly from Democrats’ new, subpoena-power-armed ability to investigate the fetid swamp of Trumpian corruption.
But that doesn’t mean that Democrats should ignore policy issues. On the contrary, the party should spend the next two years figuring out what, exactly, it will try to do if it gains policymaking power in 2021. Which brings me to the big policy slogan of the moment: the so-called Green New Deal. Is this actually a good idea?
Eugene Robinson: Who isn’t running for the Democratic presidential nomination?
It has begun.
The field of candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination is starting to form, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) announcing Monday that she has launched a campaign “exploratory committee” — the same step that former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro took earlier in December. Spoiler alert: Exploratory committees always come to the same conclusion. They’re both running.
Actually, who isn’t running? At this point, by some counts, as many as 30 potential Democratic candidates either have expressed interest in taking the plunge or have significant constituencies urging them to do so. If you thought the 2016 GOP debates were crowded, just wait. This year, Democrats may have to debate in shifts, or perhaps stand on risers like a choir.
And, no, they won’t all be singing the same tune. That’s a good thing. Even more than it needs new blood, the party needs new ideas. In the wake of President Trump’s nihilistic vandalism, the next president will have much to do — not just healing the nation, but moving it forward.
Robert Creamer: America Isn’t As Polarized As You Think It Is
It’s true. During the holidays, Americans (current White House occupant aside) tend to be kinder, more civil, more accommodating. They catch the “holiday spirit.”
Some might ask: Why can’t our politics reflect that holiday spirit all year long? Why does it seem to get more and more polarized?
Political polarization is often misunderstood to be the result of politicians failing to play nice with each other ― or failing to compromise ― or even outrageous Trumpian rhetoric (which does exacerbate the problem).
Over a decade ago, I attended a bipartisan “civility retreat” with my wife ― Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) ― and other members of Congress. People were very nice to each other. What’s more, in social settings, the members of Congress from both parties are still really nice to each other today. But none of that has mattered as our country has become more and more sharply divided. And a study by a group of political scientists shows us why no amount of “civility training” will do the trick. [..]
On the other hand, the economic polarization of America has not divided the country into two roughly equal groups of haves and have-nots. In fact, virtually all of the 48 percent growth in per-capita gross domestic product of the last 30 years has gone to the top 1 percent, and the wages of most ordinary people have been stagnant.
Why, then, hasn’t that led to a growing consensus among most Americans that change is necessary?
One of the more idiotic, if not wholly surprising, byproducts of the #MeToo era is how men who have been exposed as misogynists and abusers have recast themselves as victims. Lost livelihoods and broken reputations are, they tell us, an excessive price to pay for their transgressions. Lately, though, going hand in hand with this victim status, is a new hardened persona, one that comes bathed in fury and self-righteousness. “You thought that was bad,” they seem to say. “You ain’t seen the half of it.”
Take Louis CK, the comedian who, in November 2017, admitted to repeatedly exposing himself to and masturbating in front of unconsenting women and, on being found out, declared: “I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen.” For CK, “a long time” meant nine months, after which he was back on stage at the Comedy Cellar in New York doing what comics tend to do: talking and saying what he wanted. Now, new audio has emerged from a fortnight ago, featuring a lengthy Louis CK rant – I would call it a comedy set but that would give it a credence it doesn’t deserve – recorded at a Long Island club. It finds him “jokingly” bemoaning the money he has lost in the past year, mocking the survivors of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 students and staff members were killed, and lamenting the new political correctness that champions gender neutral pronouns and frowns on the use of words like “retarded”. Presumably sensing disapproval from his audience, he says: “What, are you going to take away my birthday? My life is over, I don’t give a shit. You can … be offended, it’s OK. You can get mad at me. Anyway. So why do black guys have big dicks? Let’s talk about that for a minute.”
What does it mean to be human? That question sits at the core of human rights. To be human has specific implications: human self-awareness and the actions taken to uphold human dignity – these are what gives the concept of humanity a special meaning.
Human self-awareness and human actions determine the interplay between individual thought and language and the wider society. It is our actions as humans that deliver economic security, the right to education, the right to free association and free expression; and which create the conditions for protecting expression and encouraging bold thinking. When we abandon efforts to uphold human dignity, we forfeit the essential meaning of being human, and when we waver in our commitment to the idea of human rights, we abandon our moral principles. What follows is duplicity and folly, corruption and tyranny, and the endless stream of humanitarian crises that we see in the world today.