American Politics

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?

The Left's Missing Foreign Policy

The Left's Missing Foreign Policy

On the pressing need, fifteen years after the Iraq invasion, for a non-imperial vision of the US and the world.

Today, on right and left, that past cold war consensus has cracked. While Trump doubts whether there is much of an ethical distinction between the US and Russia, activists on the left have no trouble rejecting both capitalism and empire. What is desperately needed now is a fully developed non-imperial articulation of American foreign policy—one that could challenge the Democratic Party establishment in the same way that Sanders’s call for “Medicare for All” has done.

A New Struggle Coming

A New Struggle Coming

On the teachers’ strike in West Virginia

The teachers’ movement is a reclamation and redirection of a militant working-class identity. They look back to the miners, look around at the uncompensated wreckage of the land, and look forward to the world we are all entering, where the labor is in social reproduction: teaching, caregiving, the upholding of the human world.

Gun Violence and the War on Terror

Gun Violence and the War on Terror

Discussions of terrorism and mass shootings lean heavily on a sense of danger that bears little resemblance to the threats that actually face us.

This time around, magical forces (that is, children) were supposed to save us from the gun control debate. There was something unsettling or self-serving about the excess of praise adults heaped on the Stoneman Douglas students who boarded charter buses bound for the Tallahassee statehouse just a few days after watching their classmates die. “This shooting is different from the other ones,” a 16-year-old boy told a Times reporter. “I just have a gut feeling—something is going to change.” It’s understandable that he should feel this way; insofar as no previous school shooting had happened in his school, to his friends and teachers, this time was different. But his representatives quickly demonstrated that it was not different enough. Florida’s legislature voted down a motion to debate an assault weapons ban.

Ice Age

Ice Age

Society as checkpoint

The details of ICE terror are so on-the-nose they would seem downright corny as fiction. This starred-and-striped Gestapo now targets not only schools, workplaces, and homes—as it had done, of course, under Democratic as well as Republican presidencies—but immigration offices themselves, the very places once meant to offer the way out of hiding and persecution.

Allegations and Counter-Allegations

Allegations and Counter-Allegations

The propagation of allegations is now taking place under the pretense of official congressional business, and without apology.

Hurricane Nunes is the latest weather system to fill the radar screen. It takes its name from Congressman Devin Nunes, a Republican from California and chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Over the first year of the Trump administration, Nunes has repeatedly made himself a useful arms-length proxy for the White House. Last March he cast some young White House national security staffers who complained about the “unmasking” of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as being in the mold of Edward Snowden. His other services to the Republican Party include leading the fruitless two-year Benghazi investigation and repeatedly characterizing proponents of environmental regulation and universal health care as communists. In a Monday morning tweet, Trump called him “a man of tremendous courage and grit . . . a Great American hero.”