Start Making Sense

Joe Biden has No Place to Go Except Down: Robert Borosage; plus Martin Duberman on the lost world of gay liberation

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It’s an extraordinary victory: the first round of Democratic debates shows that all the major candidates are working within a progressive framework.  Robert Borosage says Bernie gets the credit—and that, although Biden currently is far ahead in the polls of Democratic voters, he has nowhere to go except down, once he is challenged on his record: Iraq, mass incarceration, NAFTA, and Clarence Thomas.
Also: 50 years after Stonewall, historian Martin Duberman argues that, despite the obvious and necessary victories, the radical heart of gay liberation has been abandoned.  The Gay Liberation Front of the late sixties critiqued monogamy, rather than campaigning for marriage equality, and opposed militarism and imperialism, rather than fighting to get gays into the military.  Duberman is a longtime activist and writer on gay politics.   7/4/19

Elizabeth Warren’s American Story: Joan Walsh, plus Jeet Heer on Joe Biden and Andrew Bacevich on Mideast Wars

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Campaigning in Iowa, Elizabeth Warren has made her story an American story, Joan Walsh says, and thereby found a good way to connect her policy proposals to her own life, and thereby to other people’s lives–and also to refute critics who say she’s an out-of-touch policy wonk.
Also: Joe Biden and his friends: he says some of them were segregationist senators – and he thinks that was a good thing, something that made it possible for him to pass important legislation.  Jeet Heer says that’s a fantasy—Republicans are not going to work with Biden if he gets the nomination and defeats Trump.  Jeet is a new National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation.
Plus: Recently Andrew Basevitch visited the Middle East Conflicts Memorial – it’s like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but for all the Americans who fought and died in all of America’s wars in the Mideast. But unlike the Vietnam Memorial and the World War II Memorial, it’s not on the National Mall in Washington DC; instead, it’s in Marseilles, Illinois.  That says a lot about the place of our unending mideast wars in our current political debates. 6-26-19

Elizabeth Warren Is Winning the Ideas Primary: Katrina vanden Heuvel; plus John Nichols on Bernie & Socialism, & Sasha Abramsky on Florida voting rights

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Elizabeth Warren may be running third in the Democratic polls, after Biden and Bernie, but she seems to be the clear leader in what we call “the ideas primary.”  Katrina vanden Heuvel comments—and suggests that foreign policy, where Warren has said little, should be a focus for the upcoming Democratic candidate debates.
Also: Trump declared in his State of the Union speech “America will never become a socialist country.” Of course that only makes it seem like maybe it will.  Bernie Sanders gave an important speech on socialism last week, and our John Nichols spoke with him about it — beforehand.
Also: One of the great progressive victories last November, along with the mid-term Congressional races, was the vote in Florida to restore voting rights to people who had been convicted of felonies and served their sentences–1.4 million people.  But the voting rights news from Florida since then has NOT been so good–Sasha Abramsky will explain.  6/19/19

Trump or Brexit: Which is Worse? DD Guttenplan; plus John Nichols w/Rashida Tlaib & Katha Pollitt on abortion and men

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For most Americans, the question “Which is worse: Trump or Brexit?” has an easy answer: of course it’s Trump! But D. D. Guttenplan, The Nation’s new Editor, says it’s more complicated than that: for starters, Americans can get rid of Trump in next November’s elections, but it’s almost impossible now for the Brits to get rid of Brexit.
Also: Rashida Tlaib is one of the two the Muslim woman elected to the House. John Nichols spoke with her for the “Next Left” podcast, our sister podcast at The Nation. Tlaib, who represents Detroit, was born there; her parents are Palestinian immigrants, and she a long and deep engagement with progressive politics in that city. In this segment John introduces clips from his interview.
Plus: At a time when several states have passed draconian new abortion restrictions, you don’t have to be a woman to stand up for reproductive rights: Katha Pollitt talks about abortion and men. 6/12/19

The Missing Candidate in California: Joe Biden–David Dayen, plus Bruce Shapiro on Assange & Ezra Levin on the Indivisible Pledge

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Joe Biden was the only leading Democratic candidate who did NOT come to the California state Democratic convention last weekend in San Francisco – David Dayen reports on the biggest of the Super Tuesday primaries; he’s the new executive editor of The American Prospect.
Also: The British should extradite Julian Assange to Sweden for the investigation of rape charges against him, but neither the Swedes nor the Brits should extradite him to the US – because the new “espionage” charges against him are a political threat to freedom of the press and to all journalists and publishers—Bruce Shapiro explains.
Plus: Every Democratic primary candidate with more than 1 per cent in the polls has signed the Indivisible Pledge to support the Democratic winner – with one exception: Joe Biden.  Why not?  Ezra Levin comments—he’s co-founder of Indivisible, the nationwide network of grassroots progressive groups.  6/5/19

Daniel Ellsberg: Espionage and Julian Assange; plus Robert Pollin on Medicare for All and Alyssa Battistoni on Climate Politics

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The indictment of Julian Assange on espionage charges is an attack on freedom of the press—that’s what Daniel Ellsberg argues. Ellsberg too was indicted under the Espionage Act – and put on trial by the Nixon Administration in 1972, because he leaked a top secret history of American involvement in Viet Nam to the New York Times and other publications. They called it the Pentagon Papers.
Also: Medicare for All: Opponents say it would be impossibly expensive. Exactly how are we going to pay for it? Robert Pollin of U Mass Amherst explains; he’s one of 219 economists who just signed an open letter to Congress urging passage of Medicare for All.
Plus: the politics of climate change. We know the world is getting hotter and the storms are getting bigger and the seas are rising. What we need to know now is not what climate change will do, but rather what we should do—because, for us, climate change is a political problem. Alyssa Battistoni comments.  5/29/19

The New York Times vs. Bernie: Amy Wilentz on media bias, plus John Nichols on Ilhan Omar and Karen Greenberg on government secrecy

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Bernie is back on Page One of the New York Times, but their report last weekend was not about his new plan to save public schools–the most progressive education program in modern American history–or his proposal to end all subsidies for oil and gas companies.  Instead, it was about a trip he made to Nicaragua in 1985, more than 30 years ago.  They didn’t like it.   How do we explain the New York Times’s coverage of Bernie Sanders?  Amy Wilentz comments.
Also: John Nichols talks about Justin Amash, the first Republican member of Congress to say that Trump has committed impeachable offenses—and also about The Nation’s new podcast, which he hosts – it’s called “Next Left,” and the premiere episode, out now, features Ilhan Omar.
Plus: There are 1,000 redactions in the 448 pages of the Muller report–individual names and entire pages–that we are not allowed to see.  They are part of a larger problem of government secrecy which started long before Trump and which is now threatening to cripple our democracy—Karen Greenberg explains. 5/22/19

What Joe Biden Has In Common with Donald Trump: Harold Meyerson, plus Michael Ames on Bowe Bergdahl & Laila Lalami on ‘The Other Americans’

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Joe Biden has one thing in common with Donald Trump: a campaign promising “restoration” of a lost past, rather than the kind of transformation we need to deal with our current problems– That’s what Harold Meyerson says. Of course the past Biden wants to restore is not the white man’s 1950s, but rather the pre-Trump America of the Clintons and Obama. Harold is Executive Editor of The American Prospect and a regular contributor to the LA Times op-ed page.
Also: during the presidential campaign, Donald Trump often talked about an American soldier in Afghanistan who became the longest-held American POW since Vietnam. Trump said he was “a dirty rotten traitor” who should be shot or thrown from a plane. He was talking about Bowe Bergdahl. Michael Ames explains how the Bergdahl story reveals a lot about why the Afghan war has been a disaster. Ames is co-author of the new book, “American Cypher: Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. Tragedy in Afghanistan.”
And we’ll also talk about immigrants, with Nation columnist Laila Lalami– her new novel is “The Other Americans,” about the suspicious death of a Moroccan immigrant in a small town in California. it’s a family saga, a murder mystery, and a love story.  5/16/19

The New Voters of 2020: Steve Phillips, plus Ben Ehrenreich on Climate and Commerce and Amy Wilentz on Haiti’s Notre Dame

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or the 2020 election, we’ve been focusing mostly on the candidates who want to challenge Trump – but we also need to consider the voters, and the changes in the electorate since 2016. Especially significant: young people of color. Steve Phillips explains – he’s the author of the best-seller “Brown Is the New White: How a Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority.”
Also: climate change and living in the city, where the health effects of hyrdocarbon production and global trade are felt most intensely. Ben Ehrenreich reports on local organizing in the city of Commerce, California, a transit point for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Plus: Paris isn’t the only place where a cathedral of Notre Dame is in ruins and awaiting rebuilding – there’s another Notre Dame in Haiti, destroyed in the earthquake of 2010. Amy Wilentz has a modest proposal about a source for the money: reparations — from France.  5/9/19

Bill McKibben: ‘We’re Capable of Doing Remarkable Things to Combat Climate Change’ Plus: Richard J. Evans on Eric Hobsbawm.

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What can we do to reduce the speed of climate change? Bill McKibben argues that we’re at a bleak moment in human history—and we’ll either confront that bleakness, or watch the civilization our forebears built slip away. Bill was one of the first people to warn of the dangers of global warming 30 years ago with his book The End of Nature. Then he founded the environmental organization, the first truly global citizens movement to combat climate change. Today it offers some possible ways out of the trap. His new book is FALTER: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
Also: Eric Hobsbawm was everybody’s favorite Marxist historian. His books, especially The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital, The Age of Empire, and The Age of Extremes, have been translated into 50 languages and sold millions of copies. He was also a lifelong member of the British Communist Party, and his fight against Stalinist orthodoxy in the party shaped his understanding of the past. Richard J. Evans explains—he’s the author of the new biography Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History. 4/24/19