Center-Left and Center-Right Need to Team Up Against Extremists

Opinion

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
Washington Monument
View of the Washington Monument from the General Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington DC, July 3, 2018 (DoD/Reese Brown)

John F. Harris argues in Politico that the center-right anti-Trump movement could outlive the president and make common cause with the center-left.

Both oppose effort to stifle free thinking and bully those who dissent from ideological or racial orthodoxy, he writes.

James Bennet was recently forced out as opinion editor of The New York Times after he published an incendiary op-ed by Republican senator Tom Cotton. A Boeing spokesman resigned over an article he wrote 33 years ago, as a young Navy lieutenant, in which he argued against women in combat. There are countless other examples of Americans losing their jobs for holding the “wrong” opinion or for merely giving a platform to the wrong opinion.

“If we lived under some fickle absolutist king, who arbitrarily decided what was offensive, outrageous or even criminal, we’d all recognize the illiberalism of it,” Jonah Goldberg writes in his newsletter. “But when a mob arbitrarily rules the same way, we call it social justice.”

The pro-Trump right loves to hate on left-wing cancel culture, yet they have purged many Trump critics from conservative media, organizations and think tanks. Under the guise of free speech, Trump wants the federal government, not social-media companies, to decide what the likes of Facebook and Twitter can publish. So much for free enterprise. (And have Republicans considered what a Democratic administration might do with that power?)

Traditional conservatives and liberals also share an interest in propping up institutions, which the Bernie Sanders left and Trump right agree are beyond repair. The far left wants to abolish the Electoral College, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and in some cases the police. The far right wants to uproot the media, universities and the Washington “deep state”. The center-left and center-right argue for reform.

Harris wonders if the alliance will endure beyond the election:

Once Trump leaves, so too will the incentives that drove liberals and conservatives together in opposition.

But defeating Trump in November will not necessarily defeat the authoritarian right. Read more “Center-Left and Center-Right Need to Team Up Against Extremists”

Democracy Must Be Resistant to the Coronavirus

Opinion

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
Washington DC
The skyline of Washington DC at dawn (Shutterstock/Orhan Cam)

In a crisis, calls to do something, quickly, can be hard to resist. Politicians must still try.

On both sides of the Atlantic, governments are planning some of the largest peacetime interventions in the private economy to cope with the outbreak of coronavirus disease.

  • Familiar battle lines have been drawn in Europe, where conservative northern countries, led by Germany and the Netherlands, hesitate to free up EU funds for the crisis.
  • The roles are reversed in America, where once fiscally prudent Republicans are trying to rush through a stimulus twice the size of Barack Obama’s, and Democrats, who traditionally support a larger role for government, are stepping on the brakes.

The stallers are not unreasonable. We can take a few days to debate how to spend trillions of euros and dollars. Read more “Democracy Must Be Resistant to the Coronavirus”

Sanders Claims He Can Raise Turnout. He Hasn’t So Far

Analysis

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
Bernie Sanders
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders makes a speech in Manchester, New Hampshire, October 30, 2015 (Michael Vadon)

Bernie Sanders argues he can defeat Donald Trump by convincing more Americans to vote. A self-declared socialist may lose some swing voters by campaigning on nationalizing health insurance and raising middle-class taxes, but he can make up for it, Sanders argues, by mobilizing young and working voters.

It’s always seemed unwise to me to bet on potential voters rather than actual voters. Now that skepticism has been substantiated. Read more “Sanders Claims He Can Raise Turnout. He Hasn’t So Far”

Democrats Don’t Have to Take Sanders’ Delegate Complaints Seriously

Opinion

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
Democratic National Convention
Delegates listen to a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016 (DNCC/Chris Frommann)

The New York Times asked 93 of the 771 Democratic Party officials who will be automatically seated at the convention in July — the so-called “superdelegates” — if they would vote for Bernie Sanders if the socialist emerged with a plurality, but not a majority, of the pledged delegates.

Only nine said they would.

Sanders’ supporters are predictably up in arms, arguing the party “establishment” is conspiring to overturn “the will of the people”.

Some are threatening to sit out the election in November if their man doesn’t prevail.

Imagine being so safe and comfortable that you could stomach another four years of children being separated from their parents at the border and killed in detention, American citizens of color being harassed by immigration authorities, institutions being demolished, the rule of law turned into a dead letter and the liberal world order torn to shreds in the service of Vladimir Putin if the only alternative is voting for your second-best candidate. I’m not terribly well-versed in the rhetoric of the social-justice left, but I believe this is what they call “privilege”? Read more “Democrats Don’t Have to Take Sanders’ Delegate Complaints Seriously”

What Is a Brokered Convention? Could It Happen?

Explainer

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
Republican National Convention
The Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 30, 2012 (Think Out Loud)

It’s every political junkie’s dream: a contested convention. When no American presidential candidate wins a majority of the delegates in state-by-state contests before the party’s convention in the summer, the assembly — normally stage-managed for television — will have to go through as many voting rounds as it takes to elect a nominee. Imagine the theater!

It hasn’t happened in almost seventy years, and for good reason.

The last time Democrats needed to “broker” their convention was in 1952. The last time Republicans had one was in 1948. At both times, the parties went on to lose the general election. The spectacle of a party struggling to find a presidential candidate doesn’t inspire much confidence in voters that they’ve made the right choice.

Could the same happen to Democrats this year? Read more “What Is a Brokered Convention? Could It Happen?”

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

Review

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis cover
Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis (2019)

Jared Diamond’s latest book, Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis (2019), is clearly written for a lay audience.

I took only introductory courses in Australian and Japanese history in university, but I learned almost nothing new from Diamond’s respective chapters on those countries. The chapters on postwar Germany and the 1973 coup in Chile taught me nothing I hadn’t picked in high school or from watching documentaries. The remaining chapters on Finland’s Winter War with the Soviet Union and Indonesia’s dictatorship were more informative, but only because I never investigated either.

Even by the standard of an undergraduate textbook, Upheaval falls short. Footnotes, endnotes and references are completely lacking. Anecdotes abound. If it wasn’t for a list of further reading at the back — which contains barely more than a dozen titles per country — one could be forgiven for thinking Diamond relied entirely on personal experience and the opinions of a handful of international acquaintances to arrive at his conclusions. Read more “Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis”

Why Democratic Party Officials Are Reluctant to Take Sides

Explainer

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
Hillary Clinton Andrew Cuomo
Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York attend a political event in New York City, April 4, 2016 (Hillary for America/Barbara Kinney)

You may remember that in 2016, we interpreted both the Democratic and Republican primaries in the United States through the prism of “the party decides” theory, which argues that party elites — including elected and party officials, interest group leaders and other partisan figures — coordinate before presidential nominating contests in order to help their preferred candidate win.

Or, as The Economist pithily summarized the argument: parties tell the electorate how to vote, rather than voters telling the party whom to support.

That obviously didn’t happen in the Republican Party, where elites failed to stop Donald Trump.

Democratic elites (everyone from the chair of the Democratic National Committee to local union bosses) did coalesce around Hillary Clinton, but many voters didn’t listen: 43 percent backed Bernie Sanders.

This year, public endorsements from Democratic Party figures are slower than usual, suggesting that — like Republicans four years ago — “the” party is reluctant to decide. Read more “Why Democratic Party Officials Are Reluctant to Take Sides”

It’s Too Hard to Remove an American President

Opinion

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
Donald Trump James Mattis
American president Donald Trump and his defense secretary, James Mattis, arrive for a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12, 2018 (NATO)

If Donald Trump’s allies in the Senate vote to acquit him next week, they will prove it has become too hard to remove a president in the United States.

Trump withheld congressionally mandated aid from Ukraine to coerce the country into investigating the son of his Democratic rival, former vice president Joe Biden. Trump broke the law and abused his power to help his reelection.

Yet not a single Republican member of Congress voted to impeach him. Not a single Republican senator is expected to vote to remove him from office. Read more “It’s Too Hard to Remove an American President”

Why Trumpists Demand Complete Loyalty

Opinion

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump attends a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)

Jonah Goldberg wonders in his newsletter why it’s not enough for conservatives like him to accept Donald Trump’s impeachment is an overreach while recognizing that the president did something wrong.

Trump’s supporters demand complete loyalty to an ever-shifting party line — or they’ll accuse you of suffering from “Trump derangement syndrome”.

I suspect the answer depends on whether you’re talking to cowards or fanatics. Read more “Why Trumpists Demand Complete Loyalty”

Don’t Try to Take Politics Out of Important Decisions

Opinion

Nick OttensNick Ottensis the founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel.
Washington DC
View of Washington DC with the United States Capitol in the distance, September 28, 2017 (Ted Eytan)

When politics becomes dysfunctional, there will be a temptation to remove it from important decisions.

This only makes the dysfunction worse.

Politics is what we call decision-making in a democratic society. Taking politics out of some decisions falsely suggests there is a consensus for a certain policy or delegates the decision to technocrats. Either is undemocratic. Read more “Don’t Try to Take Politics Out of Important Decisions”