American Politics

The Distracted State of the Union

The Distracted State of the Union

To live in America today is to sit slackjawed at a helpless recline.

I began writing nonfiction in the wake of September 11—and was published in print, in hard copy, by newspapers and magazines that would go on to cut pages, wages, and staff, if they didn’t fold altogether. Meanwhile, online was busy revising responsibility for the attacks: Bush II ordered them, Cheney let them happen, the American Deep State colluded with the Israelis, the Israelis colluded with the Saudis.

What is Energy Dominance?

What is Energy Dominance?

The Trump Administration off the leash and unleashing

Trump’s national security strategy, published as a 68-page booklet in December of 2017, stated that one aim of “energy dominance” was to “help our allies and partners become more resilient against those that use energy to coerce,” in effect a realignment of the global energy order away from OPEC and Russia and toward the US. Though this policy rhetoric seemed to dovetail nicely with the call to consider “America First,” it was hardly isolationist. Economically, it was imperialist, encouraging dependence by smaller and developing countries, India in particular, on US fossil fuel supplies, and aiming to shore up our trade deficit with China, which has historically relied on others for their fossil fuels. When Trump recently opened the NATO conference—this even before the apparently meager breakfast of only cheese and pastries was officially served—by rebuking Angela Merkel for approving the Nord Stream 2, a proposed gas pipeline that would run from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany, he was in effect accusing her of betraying the alliance.

The Logic of Militant Democracy

The Logic of Militant Democracy

From domestic concentration camps to the war on terror

The pervasive fears over existential threats, the belief that foreign enemies were supported by internal subversion, and the sense that victory required the total destruction of our foes all fueled the conviction that “foreigners” were enemies and thus had no rights. The American concentration camps of the 1940s exemplified the logic of such war. Foreigners were guilty until proven otherwise.

Revolutionary Posters

Revolutionary Posters

An interview with the designers behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign

We’re in a revolutionary moment, so we went straight to the history of grassroots, civil rights, and social justice movements in search of a common language we could participate in. One that Ocasio-Cortez could participate in and that she belongs in. The most inspiring figures to us were Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, the cofounders of the National Farmworkers Association. They had a positive, uplifting message about bringing power to the people. It resonated so deeply with who Sandy the person was, and who Sandy the candidate became, that it was a good fit.

The Rising of the Women

The Rising of the Women

On the #WomenDisobey Action at the Capitol, the largest women's civil disobedience action in US history

Direct action works as a catalyst: It sets things in motion, in ways you can’t predict. Before the Capitol police had even finished gathering up the space blankets and processing the hundreds of arrestees, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who came down from her office to greet the protesters while the action was underway, issued a statement calling for the abolition of ICE.

Workers Full of Poems

Workers Full of Poems

On Eddie Sadlowski, 1938–2018

Sadlowski embodied the wish for organized labor to wake from its postwar slumber and again throw its weight behind a great movement for a different country, as it had done in the 1930s and before. The AFL-CIO had shamefully backed the Vietnam War; Sadlowski opposed it and denounced the growth of “the weapons economy”—of which steel was very much a part. Many of the unions in the federation, including the USWA, had dragged their heels at best on racial integration of their workplaces; Sadlowski called for strengthening the union’s civil rights apparatus, attracting the support of Jesse Jackson and members of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. Much of organized labor met environmentalism with hostility; Sadlowski dissented. “It’s one hell of a thing for me to say—we just don’t need any more steel mills. We don’t need that kind of industrial growth, at the expense of what the environment should be.” He followed the thought where it led: “Enough with the car!” What more radical claim could a blue-collar worker make about postwar society than to doubt the automobile?

The Globalist

The Globalist

George Soros after the open society

From his earliest days as a banker in postwar London, Soros believed in a necessary connection between capitalism and cosmopolitanism. For him, as for most of the members of his cohort and the majority of the Democratic Party’s leadership, a free society depends on free (if regulated) markets. But this assumed connection has proven to be a false one.

Bringing the War Home

Bringing the War Home

Gun violence and American foreign policy

Numbers are not everything. The murder of an ordinary person will do little to register in the public imagination beyond a day or two of news coverage, while the murder of a head of state will provoke an international crisis. The symbolic resonance of a violent act matters, and a society that guns down children in school is one in which something has gone very wrong. But as with terrorist attacks, the symbolism of school shootings mutates into spectacle, and if symbolism resonates like a plucked guitar string, the spectacle is the sound of that string fed into an amplifier and then trapped in a feedback loop, increasing in volume and intensity until the only possible response is panic and anger.

Zombie Liberalism

Zombie Liberalism

A plea for liberal nationalism ignores what it has looked like in practice.

Despite the appeal to pragmatism, Mounk’s political vision is utopian, his ideal polity a kind of liberal sublime. In a distant place far outside of history, virtuous trustees of public reason skillfully mobilize the best of nationalism while fending off its “dangerous excesses.” Entranced, Mounk sees in nationalism a muscular tool for legitimizing the political-economic order: “Nationalism is like a half-wild beast. As long as it remains under our control, it can be of tremendous use.” Who is the “beast,” and who is the “us” into which Mounk places the reader?