Opinion | The Robot Apocalypse Has Been Postponed – The New York Times

Ross Douthat

By Ross Douthat

Opinion Columnist

“Like many non-Democrats with an interest in both public policy and supernatural religion, I have two favorite 2020 Democratic candidates: Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.

Williamson is interesting because she helps reveal the spiritual shape of political ideas. Yang is interesting because he’s eager to think well outside the existing policy consensus and propose ideas that don’t fit naturally into either party’s current box.

But just as I don’t actually share Williamson’s specific theological perspective, I have a core disagreement with Yang: His biggest policy proposal, a guaranteed basic income for every American, is a response to a disruption that I’m not persuaded is actually happening.

Yang argues that we need this guarantee because robots and automation are already destroying, and will increasingly destroy, the employment prospects of millions of Americans. His argument assumes that we’re living through an age of accelerating technological transformation — which seems intuitively correct to many people — and that we need a government that’s ready to compensate the losers even as the winners keep on generating breakthroughs.

Andrew Yang’s biggest policy proposal is a guaranteed basic income for every American.CreditDrew Angerer/Getty Images

But intuition might be deceiving. The best reason to doubt Yang’s story is contained in productivity statistics, which measure the output of the gainfully employed and which traditionally rise rapidly during periods of technological change — because even if workers are losing their jobs to the spinning jenny or the automobile, other workers should be increasing their productivity with the new technology’s assistance.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comments
Ross, another excellent piece on what seems to me in my depression over climate damage, to be a less important issue. Your discussion on how quickly robots will disturb the status quo, is admirable, but doesn’t lift my heavy spirits. The IPCC and the US National Climate Assesment both reported last fall, that if we do not dramatically reduce our carbon footprint in the next ten years, we will probably overheat the planet, and cook to death life as we know and cherish it. The rate of increase in human life, which you hold as so especially sacred, will cause the death of over 50% of all species on the planet in the next 80 years, according to Edward O Wilson and his associates, many of the leading naturalists of the world. David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs about the environment and the world at InconvenientNews.net.

Opinion | Which Way- Pete Buttigieg? – by Ross Douthat – The New York Times

By Ross Douthat
Opinion Columnist

April 27, 2019, 601
Pete Buttigieg spoke to a group of high school students from Massachusetts and New Hampshire this month in Nashua, N.H.
Credit Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

“One of the central problems in Western politics is the impasse between a governing class that lacks legitimacy, and populist alternatives that are poorly led and unready to govern. This impasse reflects a deep trend of the last few decades — the working-out of meritocracy’s iron logic, in which the most talented young people (or at least the most talented résumé-builders) self-segregate in a small group of metropoles while the hinterland declines.

For a clinical rather than impressionistic assessment of this trend, you can turn to the new report from Senator Mike Lee’s Joint Economic Committee, which tracks “brain drain” trends across American states and finds a pattern, both longstanding and accelerating, in which the highly-educated cluster in “dynamic states” and “major metropolitan areas,” leaving less-educated Americans in “rural and post-industrial states” behind. The report describes this “geographic sorting” as one factor behind economic stagnation and social breakdown; it’s also clearly a factor driving the class-based polarization that’s given us Donald Trump, and in European politics the Brexiteers and gilets jaunes and more.

This background is part of what makes Pete Buttigieg, the bright young man of the Democratic field, such an interesting figure. In many ways Buttigieg is a kind of uber-meritocrat, a child of academic parents who made a swift climb up the meritocracy’s cursus honorum: a Harvard degree and then a Rhodes scholarship, a brief stint in D.C. followed by three years at McKinsey. And beyond the résumé, an obvious part of his appeal depends on his performative intelligence, his college-interview style of “humble” showing off.”

David Lindsay: Ross Douthat, there you go again. I had a busy weekend, and didn’t get to the Sunday NYT till Sunday night after dinner at 9 pm. By 10 pm, I was struggling to stay awake as I practiced my intellectual “flossing” by trying to follow the gymnastics of right wing, ultra religious conservative Catholic, Ross Douthat, as he cut up Pete Buttigieg, and accused him of going back to South Bend Indiana after a spectacular early career, because he was plotting for the presidency. Reading Douthat, I kept closing my eyes to sleep, and this morning, I drank in the most recommended Times comments, 2 or 3 dozen, which shredded Douthat for the narrow, intolerant, fascistic but brilliant Catholic that he is. These comments were so much more focused and clear headed than I was capable of last night. If you want a clear delineation of what is evil in conservative right wing evangelical or Catholic meddling in politics, I recommend these comments. They also are a powerful recognition, that in Pete Buttigieg, people hear the intelligence and calming clear voice of another Lincoln, FDR or Obama.
About my fabulous, bitter-sweet weekend. Kathleen was busy all day Saturday at the Hamden Earth Day Fair at the Hamden Middle School, where she was manning the table for her Sustainable CT initiative, where she is working relentlessly to get Hamden certified by the Sustainable CT organization, a massive two year effort. In the morning, I was reading in the Times that Obama loved having Biden as his running mate, twice, because Biden could speak and win over white working class males from the rust belt. I reworked the old song, “I’m Ready When You Call me Lord, But Give me Just a little More Time.” When I got to the Earth Day Fair, I found Kathleen in front of her table, free style dancing to rock and roll with a 10 year old boy and his mother, because, “the young man really wanted to dance, but was too shy to do it by himself.” I found many vendors who could guide me in making my house and life more sustainable.
On Sunday, one of my music partners Gail Pells came over and we three rehearsed our three songs, before singing with many others at the Memorial Service of my long-time friend and former singing partner David Green of Branford, at the Evergreen Woods Life Care Community. It was great to see his widow, my friend Ginny Shaw, and hear her articulate, teary-eyed daughters and family. Kathleen and I went in the afternoon to Bill and Gina Dunlap’s house Concert to hear Hughie Jones of England and the two Bobs of Staten Island, Bob Conroy and Bob ? in concert that was extended by songs led by some of CT’s finest traditional singers, who were in the audience. In the kitchen pub sing after the concert, Kathleen and I performed, the half traditional, half David Green version of “I’m Ready When You Call Me Lord, But Give me just a little more Time,” for the second time in the same day.
And now, here is Ross Douthat, see if you can see any faults in his crafty, articulate logic.

Opinion | The Mueller Exposé – By Ross Douthat – The New York Times

By Ross Douthat
Opinion Columnist

April 20, 2019, 774

“Roughly four thousand, two hundred and twenty-seven Trump-era news cycles ago, there was a rather famous book called “Fire and Fury.” The author, Michael Wolff, used an interesting tactic to gain access to the Trump White House: He allowed his subjects, the president included, to believe that he was going to write a positive account of the Trump administration, and then used that access to produce an account of an administration in constant chaos, and a president who was understood by everyone around him to be unfit for the job.

One way to approach the Mueller report, if your sense of civic duty requires you to approach it, is to see it as a more rigorous, capacious version of “Fire and Fury.” Mueller’s exposé was backed by subpoena power rather than just sweet talk, but ultimately it delivers the same general portrait: Donald Trump as an amoral incompetent surrounded by grifters, misfits and his own overpromoted children, who is saved from self-destruction by advisers who sometimes decline to follow orders, and saved from high crimes in part by incompetence and weakness.”

Opinion | From the Ashes of Notre-Dame – The New York Times

Quote

David Lindsay:

I read Ross Douthat for the same reason I floss, to practice fighting plaque. I love the power of his prose, and can get mesmerized by it.
Here is a commenter, that explains my beef with many Christians.

R Calhoun
Oxford UK2h ago
“…liberal Christianities usually end up resembling a post-inferno cathedral, with the still-grand exterior concealing emptiness within.”

My goodness. If that is how you describe your fellow believers I shudder to think of how you would describe my family—married 25 years, two daughters, supporters of our community and institutions, but devout atheists—“a vast void of emptiness within”? “a supermassive black hole of emptiness within”?

Notre Dame is a monument to the glory of God, but also to the shear audacity of a human society willing to embark on a construction project taking generations to complete. It embodies an ability to work on long-term goals that is sorely needed to address the problems we face as a human culture—economic inequality, climate change, extirpation of species beyond those we raise for food. This is why the burning of Notre Dame is a calamity for all of us; our medieval forebears built this cathedral not as a momument to themselves but to their culture, and they built it to last.

In your columns you frequently and, in my opinion, unfairly, decry the spiritual vacuum of all but the most conservative believers. One can have meaning in one’s life without the supernatural. Consider if you will Earth as the most beautiful cathedral of them all; it too is on fire, albeit a slow smoldering one. As with Notre Dame we must quench those fires, and like Notre Dame we must rebuild, carving and setting each stone for the benefit of generations yet to come.

4 Replies152 Recommended

I read Ross Douthat for the same reason I floss, to practice fighting plaque. I love the power of his prose, and can get mesmerized by it.
Here is a commenter, that explains my beef with many Christians.

R Calhoun
Oxford UK2h ago
“…liberal Christianities usually end up resembling a post-inferno cathedral, with the still-grand exterior concealing emptiness within.”

My goodness. If that is how you describe your fellow believers I shudder to think of how you would describe my family—married 25 years, two daughters, supporters of our community and institutions, but devout atheists—“a vast void of emptiness within”? “a supermassive black hole of emptiness within”?

Notre Dame is a monument to the glory of God, but also to the shear audacity of a human society willing to embark on a construction project taking generations to complete. It embodies an ability to work on long-term goals that is sorely needed to address the problems we face as a human culture—economic inequality, climate change, extirpation of species beyond those we raise for food. This is why the burning of Notre Dame is a calamity for all of us; our medieval forebears built this cathedral not as a momument to themselves but to their culture, and they built it to last.

In your columns you frequently and, in my opinion, unfairly, decry the spiritual vacuum of all but the most conservative believers. One can have meaning in one’s life without the supernatural. Consider if you will Earth as the most beautiful cathedral of them all; it too is on fire, albeit a slow smoldering one. As with Notre Dame we must quench those fires, and like Notre Dame we must rebuild, carving and setting each stone for the benefit of generations yet to come.

4 Replies152 Recommended

 

A first draft of this column was written before flames engulfed the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, before its spire fell in one of the most dreadful live images since Sept. 11, 2001, before a blazing fire went further than any of France’s anticlerical revolutionaries ever dared.

My original subject was the latest controversy in Catholicism’s now-years-long Lent, in which conflicts over theology and sex abuse have merged into one festering, suppurating mess. The instigator of controversy, this time, was the former pope, the 92-year-old Benedict XVI, who late last week surprised the Catholic intelligentsia with a 6,000-word reflection on the sex abuse crisis.

Portions of the document were edifying, but there was little edifying in its reception. It was passed first to conservative Catholic outlets, whose palpable Benedict nostalgia was soon matched by fierce criticism from Francis partisans, plus sneers from the secular press at the retired pope’s insistence that the sex abuse epidemic was linked to the cultural revolution of the 1960s and the 1970s.

The column I was writing before the fire was mostly a lament for what the document’s reception betokened: A general inability, Catholic and secular, to recognize that both the “conservative” and “liberal” accounts of the sex abuse crisis are partially correct, that the spirits of liberation and clericalism each contributed their part, that the abuse problem dramatically worsened during the sexual revolution (a boring empirical fact if you spend any time with the data or the history) even as it also had roots in more traditional patterns of clerical chauvinism, hierarchical arrogance, institutional self-protection.

via Opinion | From the Ashes of Notre-Dame – The New York Times

Opinion | Trump’s Prime-Time Bludgeon – By Ross Douthat – The New York Times

Quote

By Ross Douthat
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 9, 2019,  675 c
President Trump made his first prime-time Oval Office address on Tuesday night.
Credit,  Joshua Bright for The New York Times
“The people who didn’t want television networks to cede a prime-time hour last night — or, as it turned out, a prime-time 10 minutes — to the president of the United States were implicitly giving Donald Trump a credit that he does not deserve. There is a kind of silver-tongued orator who can persuade in any situation, who like Caesar’s Mark Antony can find a crowd leaning one way and leave them stirred up for the opposite cause, who is legitimately dangerous when given a rostrum or a soapbox or a prime-time speech. But that is not our president: His rhetoric is a bludgeon, and what we saw last night was just an attempt to club his enemies and critics with the same arguments he’s made a thousand times before.

In fairness to Trump, the immigration bludgeon was effective once — for two reasons that played out in surprising ways across the 2016 campaign. First, Trump-the-candidate’s dire warnings about criminals and terrorists crossing the southern border dovetailed with two 2016-specific trends — the spike in violent crime after decades of decline, and the rash of Islamic State-inspired attacks on both sides of the Atlantic.

Second, the extremity of his rhetoric persuaded skeptics of mass immigration, long burned by politicians of both parties, that Trump would not betray them. In a political landscape where every year seemed to bring a new bipartisan push for amnesties and immigration increases, his xenophobic style was an effective political marker for anyone with inchoate anxieties about immigration. You didn’t have to literally believe that he would build the Wall and make Mexico pay for it to regard that wild promise as evidence that he would be more genuinely restrictionist and hawkish on the issue than politicians merely paying lip service to “border security.”

[Want to join the debate? Follow us on Instagram at @nytopinion.]

But the problem for Trump is that presidents have to deal with changing circumstances and cope with unexpected crises, not just fulminate in the same style regardless of the context. And the world of 2019 looks different than the world in which he campaigned. The crime rate didn’t keep rising, the pace of terror attacks hasn’t quickened, and fate has given him an immigration crisis that’s substantially different than the crisis of murderers and terror plotters that he invoked in his campaign rhetoric — a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of families and children, in which the problem isn’t the people that we can’t catch crossing the borders but the people who surrender willingly, hoping to exploit our overstrained asylum system and disappear with their kids into the American interior.”

via Opinion | Trump’s Prime-Time Bludgeon – The New York Times

David Lindsay:  Yes and well done Ross Douthat. Here is a comment I fully endorsed”

David Potenziani
Durham, NC
Times Pick

Mr. Douthat and the media focus on Trump, his wall, and the shutdown. The last is the only important part of that triplet, but the underlying issue that prompts the “crisis” is well and truly lost. We have a legitimate border problem because of who is coming and why. Families do not routinely decide to brave a 1000+ mile journey through dangerous territory to seek asylum on a whim. They are pushed by poverty, crime, and violence. The civil strife of Central America is fueling the flood of refugees. The “problem” will not be solved until those issues are addressed. These are not just problems located in Central America, but our own backyards. We have been waging the wrong war since Nixon was president. Rather than address the issues of drug addiction as a public health problem, we have criminalized it. The economic result has made the price of illegal drugs rise and move off-shore where criminal organizations now benefit from exporting to the US. As they struggle among themselves for primacy, their own neighborhoods have become war zones. The people living there, faced with lethal danger at home, decide to take their chances by going north. Solutions will not be easy by themselves. Even harder is convincing the heart of America that we really have a humanitarian and public health crisis. Trump is a tired general still fighting the war before the last war. Mr. Douthat would serve us better by talking about those twin crises than rehashing Trump’s rhetoric.

Opinion | The West at an Impasse – By Ross Douthat – The New York Times

By Ross Douthat, Opinion Columnist

Dec. 19, 2018, 341c

Image
President Emmanuel Macron presides over a country roiled by populist protests.CreditCreditPool photo by Benoit Tessier

“In France, where the extraordinarily unpopular Emmanuel Macron presides over a country roiled by populist protests, a leading politician of Macron’s centrist party was asked in a televised interview what policy mistakes his peers had made: “We were probably too intelligent, too subtle,” he told the interviewer, whose eyebrows danced with disbelief.

Around the same time a Hungarian newspaper ran an interview with Radek Sikorski, the former foreign minister of Poland and a member of a centrist party that has been swept aside by the populists who currently rule in Warsaw. Asked to explain the chaotic European situation, he cited a recent Atlantic essay by his wife, the Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, which portrayed populism as, in part, a revolt by the resentfully unsuccessful against “meritocracy and competition.” The centrist alternative to populism, he suggested, was embodied by Macron, who won the French presidency on “positive ideas” rather than “what is worst in us.”

“Macron’s poll numbers are breaking negative records,” the interviewer dryly noted.

While I read both of these exchanges, my Kindle was open to “The Rise of the Meritocracy,” written in 1958 by the British civil servant Michael Young. The book coined the term in its title, and Young’s neologism was soon adopted as a compliment, a term of praise for a system of elite formation that relied on SAT tests and resumes and promised rule by the most intelligent rather than the well-bred.”

David Lindsay: Ross, well done. You kept me till the end, when you wrote:
“In theory the impasse can be overcome. That’s what statesmanship is for — to bridge gaps between complacent winners and angry losers, to weld populism’s motley grievances into a new agenda suited for the times, to manifest an elitism that is magnanimous instead of arrogant.

But can the system we have really produce such a statesman? The next one we find will be the first.”
What a silly way to end. Think Barak Obama, John Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Franklin D Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt. And that doesn’t include the great Europeans such as Winston Churchill.
You write brilliantly. Perhaps you should consider controlling your right wing, Catholic litmus tests.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com

There are some excellent comments, such as:

ChristineMcM
Massachusetts
Times Pick

What bothers me about Ross’s thesis is his insouciance about the limits of populists. He seems to view them as grievance-driven but rudderless, impotent, and unlikely to gain real power. What he leaves out, however, is the natural extension of populism into fascism, as in 1930s Europe. And when he refers to Polish politics as centrists taken over by populists, I cringe because reports show alarming trends towards authoritarianism per th e crackdowns by former Prime Minister Kaczynkiski, mirroring Hungary’s rightward spiral under Orban. Even though Ross seems to feel the US goes through natural cycles of meritocracy and populism, I say it’s dangerous to say those are the only choices. If populists can find a strong and charismatic enough leader to follow, countries can swing authoritarian. We say it can’t happen here, but even though Trump is a corrupt clown who’s given up on serious governing, his Republican party is operating behind the scenes to power grab and subvert democracy. From voter suppression to stripping new Democratic governors of their powers, we see a flouting of US laws, norms, and governing practices. Political polarism (and paralysis) could still morph into “soft” fascism if we aren’t careful.

Opinion | Trump Can’t Unite Us. Can Anyone? – By Frank Bruni and Ross Douthat – The New York Times

By Frank Bruni and Ross Douthat
Mr. Bruni and Mr. Douthat are opinion columnists. They converse every other week.

Oct. 30, 2018 382 comments

Frank Bruni: Ross, I would typically begin with some idle pleasantry — “Hey, it’s good to talk with you” — but this doesn’t seem to me a moment for idle pleasantries, and “good” just doesn’t cut it. Not after the massacre of 11 Jewish Americans in a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday. Not after the pipe bombs of last week. Not amid ugly talk and ugly tweets. I’m hugely worried about this country, and I do not believe that President Trump has it in him to unite us and heal our wounds. Please, please, please tell me I’m wrong.

Ross Douthat: Of course you’re not wrong, Frank. In his presidency Donald Trump has shown no interest in actually presiding over the country, as opposed to just trying to mobilize his own coalition against the liberal Other. For him to respond to a pair of far-right terrorist attacks with defensiveness and partisanship is simply who he is — a self-justifying polarizer who finds the other aspects of the job tedious and prefers, even amid trauma, to just hurl rhetorical grenades from his Twitter feed.

Frank: Is that it, then? We give up on hoping for anything better from him and … do what? It’s a serious question. The presidency has enormous moral force, quaint as that notion sounds right now, and if the president has no moral compass, what can we do so that we don’t unravel further as we wait him out?

Ross: Well, if you’re a Democrat, you try to beat his party at the polls. I’ve said before in these conversations that I think Trump has some modicum of self-control, but it’s mostly linked to self-interest. If you want him to abjure a polarizing response to tragedy, you need to show that it’s a bad political strategy. Which I think it is; I think politically the horror in Pittsburgh and the mail bombs are a gift to Democrats, because they highlight one of the most specific ways that Trump is ill-suited to his office.”

Well don gentlemen. Here is a comment I enjoyed:
Socrates
Downtown Verona. NJ4h ago
Trump is a neo-Jefferson Davis, governing for the Confederate States of America and not a single Union citizen opposed to his 1861 platform of Making America White Again.

He and his Republican nihilists just blew up the national deficit for the sole purpose of painting the toenails of the rich a finer hue of gold…..healthcare, infrastructure, education, voting rights, women’s rights, worker rights, environment and decent public be damned.

The heart and soul of Trump-Republicanism is stealing from the poor to give to the rich in the name of white supremacy, fear, loathing and selfishness.

Red Republican welfare state regressives are completely subsidized by industrious, educated Democratic blue states.

Making 1861 Great Again is a suicidal Southern strategy.

Vote for modernity, healthcare, infrastructure, the environment, campaign finance corruption reform, voting rights, free and fair elections, decent regulation and an emergency brake on the Grand Old Psychopaths who are happy to flush all 241 years of American ideals down a Trump Toilet for a few extra dollars.

November 6 2018

VOTE

4 Replies200 Recommended

Opinion | The Kavanaugh Accusation Is Dangerous for the Pro-Life Movement – By Ross Douthat – The New York Times

“This includes the pro-life movement. Even if it wins its long-desired victory at the high court and more anti-abortion legislation becomes possible, a pro-life cause joined to a party that can’t win female votes and seems to have no time for women will never be able to achieve those legislative goals, or at least never outside a very few, very conservative states. And having that long-awaited victory accomplished by a male judicial appointee confirmed under a cloud of #MeToo suspicion seems like a good way to cement a perception that’s fatal to the pro-life movement’s larger purposes — the perception that you can’t be pro-woman and pro-life.

This points to a conclusion that’s certainly unfair to Kavanaugh if he’s innocent, but nobody ever said that politics would be fair. If his accuser testifies publicly and credibly, if her allegation isn’t undermined by a week of scrutiny and testimony, if it remains unprovable but squarely in the realm of plausibility, then all the abortion opponents who were supporting him should hope that his nomination is withdrawn — with, ideally, a woman nominated in his place.”

DL: Nice try Ross.
Here is a comment that covers my main thoughts well.

Clare

Sorry, but people thinking they can be feminists or pro-women’s rights and also thinking that the state should force women to give birth against their will is fundamentally untenable. If you don’t like abortion, first of all, don’t have one. That seems obvious, but the stories of pro-life protesters waving signs outside clinics one day and going into one the next when they or a family member needed an abortion are legion. Second, recognize that making abortion illegal does not help you reach your stated goal of limiting abortion to the greatest extent possible. (In fact, both history and contemporary experience teaches us that the more restrictive the abortion laws, the higher the abortion rates — true across states and countries). What reduces abortion rates are comprehensive sex education, readily accessible, effective birth control, and a social safety net that is sufficient for women to make decisions about abortion for reasons other than economics. When people on the so-called pro-life side embrace these things as policy, I will be willing to concede that they care about the actual issue and not just punishing women for exercising their agency. Until then, please don’t pretend you care in the least about women and their rights, or even policy positions that have a chance of getting you to your stated goals.

Opinion | We Are All Supreme Court Skeptics Now – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“Democracy is in peril. The majority no longer rules; a determined minority has the whip hand. The least accountable branch of government, the Supreme Court, has fallen into the hands of an aggressively counter-majoritarian faction, which intends to traduce self-government for ideological ends. The time has come to consider drastic countermeasures against our robed masters and their nascent tyranny.

These arguments are on the lips of many liberals lately. With the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, general Trump-era anxieties have found a focal point in the fear of right-wing judicial activism, of a high court that pushes policy rightward and allows Republicans to lock in anti-democratic advantages.

But any liberal with an ounce of self-awareness should recognize the resemblance between their sudden fear of juristocracy and the longstanding conservative critique of exactly the same thing. Indeed it’s quite striking, and ironically amusing, to have Trump-era liberals striking the same anti-Supreme Court notes as the talk-show populists and religious-conservative intellectuals of my own not-so-distant youth.

Partisanship being what it is, I don’t really expect either side to learn anything from these echoes and convergences. But for liberals newly awakened to the dangers of judicial power, let me offer two suggestions for thinking seriously about democratic accountability in Congress and the courts.

First, it would be wise for liberals to recognize that neither a judiciary out of step with democratic majorities nor an electoral advantage for one political apparatus are new things in American history — because when the Democratic Party dominated American politics both were important aspects of liberalism’s rule.

The politics of the 1940s and ’50s and ’60s would have still been generally liberal without judicial activism; Democrats would have still held congressional majorities, mostly, without the baked-in advantages that gave them more House seats than their share of the popular vote.

But the countermajoritarian sweep of liberal jurisprudence in that era was still dramatic, extending beyond race and segregation to encompass the entirety of the culture war, where majorities were consistently overriden, legislative debates consistently short-circuited, and longstanding features of American life — ecumenical school prayer, Christian-influenced morals legislation — overruled or uprooted by fiat.”

David Lindsay:  Well done Ross Douthat, for awhile you had me confused. This is an attractive set of arguments. Here are the two top comments, which I endorsed, which help put the analysis above into some perspective.

Martin
New York

May I mention, as an example, that Roe v Wade, the decision most often cited by Republicans as demonstrating judicial liberal overreach, was a decision in which 5 Republican judges joined 2 Democrats in the majority, with the 2 dissenters came 1 from each party? It seemed to many of us that the positions of the post war era that we now call “liberal” became dominant not by gerrymandering, voter suppression & partisan propaganda, but by reasoned argument. And it has always struck me that the “conservative” reaction against those positions over the last 40 years has used identity politics, partisan media, and political power not to engage a debate on the issues, but to obtain a pre-determined result by exercising economic & political power.

Barking Doggerel commented July 14

Barking Doggerel
Barking Doggerel
America

Although not alone in doing so, Douthat takes false equivalence to historic highs.

Equating the surges of liberalism and conservatism over time is either cluelessness or disingenuousness on steroids.

Liberals actual press to advance the values and promises of democracy.

Equality under the law for women, people of color and LGBTQ citizens is not “activism.” it is justice – albeit delayed and incomplete.

Fighting for voting rights is not a partisan game. It is fighting for the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Attempting to protect the rights to reproductive health autonomy against an onslaught of religious objections is not a “liberal” position. It is an effort to honor the founding of our pluralistic republic by keeping the hands of theology off the bodies of women.

It is dangerous to see this nomination or the broader issues as just equally valid points of view.

Opinion | The Democrats’ Midterm Dilemma – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“One of the few people to really see Donald Trump coming was the University of Chicago economist Luigi Zingales, who warned way back in 2011 that American politics was going the way of his native Italy, that we could easily produce our own version of Silvio Berlusconi, and that Trump was an obvious candidate to bottle the celebrity-populist-outsider cocktail.

So Zingales’s advice to Democrats after their 2016 defeat carried more weight than the average act of punditry. On the evidence of Berlusconi’s many victories and rare defeats, he argued, the best way to beat Trump was to do exactly what many liberals understandably didn’t want to do — to essentially normalize him, to treat him “as an ordinary opponent” rather than an existential threat, to focus on issues rather than character debates, to deny him both the public carnival and the tone of outraged hysteria in which his brand of politics tends to thrive.”

I haven’t forgiven Ross yet for his creepy column supporting right to life laws in Ireland, that have caused great pain and suffering to the poor and middle classes of Ireland. See Maureen Dowd’s report that same Sunday.

But his basic warning here is sound and important. “So Zingales’s advice to Democrats after their 2016 defeat carried more weight than the average act of punditry. On the evidence of Berlusconi’s many victories and rare defeats, he argued, the best way to beat Trump was to do exactly what many liberals understandably didn’t want to do — to essentially normalize him, to treat him “as an ordinary opponent” rather than an existential threat, to focus on issues rather than character debates, to deny him both the public carnival and the tone of outraged hysteria in which his brand of politics tends to thrive.” “