Reasons for the Left to Be Optimistic

Optimistic Left

Being a liberal/lefty/whatever in America has never been easy, and it has seldom involved optimism.  Ever since Werner Sombart wondered “Why is there no socialism in the United States?” the Left has often seen itself as a chronic loser in US history, and especially since the historic routing of the New Left in the 1960s and the right-wing counterrevolution of Reaganomics in the 1980s, progressives could be regularly counted on to outmatch Eeyore in a dolefulness contest. In recent years the triumphs of corporate power and the Christian Right have meant that most on the Left have focused on defending what they’d already achieved rather than imagining anything better—hence the slogan “Another … [Read more...]

Newsmax vs. Truthout: The Mind of the Right and Left in Your Inbox

obamacare microchips

“Democrats,” the Cato Institute recently observed, “are pinko-communist flag-burners who want to tax churches and use the money to fund abortions so they can use the fetal stem cells to create pot-smoking lesbian ATF agents…”  But it then described Republicans as “hateful, assault-weapon-wielding maniacs who believe… that the only thing wrong with the death penalty is that it isn’t administered quickly enough to secular-humanist professors of Chicano studies.”  What gives? The libertarian organization was simply filing a very funny amicus curiae brief (words not often seen together) in a Supreme Court case that deals with Americans’ right to say terrible things about each other.  The … [Read more...]

Bed-Stuy, the Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus Identification: Best of AHA 2014, Part 1


Going to conferences is one of the great mixed blessings of the academic life.  On one hand, it offers the chance to get away (to New York or LA, or sometimes even exotic destinations like Richmond, VA) and travel, like an Actually Important Person (AIP), sometimes with your department or university picking up the tab.  We get to reconnect with old friends and have more than the appropriate number of drinks--on the pretext, of course, of "getting a feel for the city" (or in Richmond's case, not). On the other hand, there is the actual conference itself--a dreary procession of monotonously recited presentations, ranging from the navel-gazingly esoteric to the merely boring.  And if it's … [Read more...]

Meet Dr. Rad, the Georgia Democrat Who’s Challenging Michelle Nunn from the Left

Dr. Rad speaking to Medicaid activists

2014 looks to be a dolorous year for Democrats, unless some sudden shift in public opinion intervenes between now and November.  The Democratic Party's hold on a Senate majority appears to hinge on President Obama's slipping popularity and a range of vulnerable incumbents in states like Louisiana and North Carolina, where Democrats who won election in the anti-Bush wave of 2008 hope to hold on to their seats. Liberals see few bright spots on the map, except for Kentucky, where Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes poses at least a plausible challenge to unpopular Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Georgia, where Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Democratic Senator Sam … [Read more...]

Making Sense of North Carolina’s Political Mess

greetings from north carolina

As the late, great Larry Goodwyn might say, it all goes back to Populism.  The roots of today’s right-wing putsch in the Old North State, which has seen resurgent Republicans in the General Assembly and Governor’s Mansion push an extreme agenda against the poor, minorities, education, the environment, voting rights and reproductive freedom, stretches back over a century, long before the rise of Barack Obama or the Tea Party. It has been hard for many observers to square the state’s recent sharp turn to the right with its reputation as among the most moderate and even progressive of Southern states.  The long, ugly career of Jesse Helms notwithstanding, North Carolina could boast of its … [Read more...]

When Genius Fractured

fail financial crisis

It is hard not to sympathize with Alex’s complaint about Age of Fracture: Rodgers’ implicit avoidance of the question of why. Age of Fracture is not the place to turn to if you are looking for an explanation of America’s twenty-first century malaise. Age of Fracture is a diagnosis, and a second-order one at that - an analysis of failed analyses, neither a prescription nor a cure. But for students wondering at the their elders’ impotence in the face of economic austerity, financial collapse, long-term unemployment, deindustrialization, mass surveillance, and so on, it is the unavoidable place to start. I read the book as a catalogue of elite failure. Each chapter is a series of logically … [Read more...]

Why Fracture? The Problem of Causation in Rodgers’s Book

Reagan granulated and refracted and black and white

I’ve written before at ToM about how Dan Rodgers's work influenced me as an undergrad at UNC-Charlotte.  In his 1987 book Contested Truths, the Princeton historian explored the ways that American thought about “the state,” “the people,” “liberty” and other fundamental political terms changed over time.  The book opened my eyes to the study of political culture, and the ways that language and rhetoric shape the implicit norms and values that inform all of our debates about public policy.  Like the work of linguist George Lakoff, it showed how we frame issues in ways that often matter much more than actual facts or figures. So where does that leave us with Age of Fracture, Rodgers’s epic … [Read more...]

The Spanish Roots of the 99%

Demonstration on May 1st 2012

On September 19th, 2011, Luis Moreno-Caballud and Begoña Santa-Cecilia returned to their apartment after three days of intense discussions and assemblies in New York City’s Zuccotti Park.  As members of Occupy Wall Street’s original Outreach Committee, they were frustrated by what he had seen in the park since the beginning of the occupation on September 17th.  They had imagined that the encampment in the heart of Wall Street would be something like the acampadas they had seen in Spain earlier that year, large open tent camps in public plazas where diverse groups of people had congregated.  Yet it still wasn’t happening.  Zuccotti Park was ringed by police vans, protestors in bandannas … [Read more...]

9/11 and Its Aftermath in Hip-hop Culture: The Hip-hop Critique of 9/11 and the Bush Administration

Immortal Technique

They wasn't aimin' at us not at my house They hit The World Trade, The Pentagon And almost got the White House. - Dead Prez The people that's most affected by this war are the so-called hip-hop generation. - Paris September 11, 2001 is a day that will forever live in infamy. Representing the largest attack on American soil in United States history, images of the towers falling reverberated around the world, imbedding themselves in the memories of millions. As Americans searched for answers, their government took bold and decisive action. President George W. Bush declared a war on terror, and began a worldwide manhunt for the perpetrators. The Patriot Act, sanctioned torture and two … [Read more...]

Conventional Wisdom: Surviving the Political Theatre of Conventions

Chris Christie opens up for Opie at the RNC

Well, thank God football is back. Tony Romo took a dump on my beloved Giants but I’ve been so starved for entertainment I’ve been watching political conventions.  Last week, I listened to some trust fund lady talk about tuna fish sandwiches, basement apartments, and Harvard in one sentence as a plea to normality.  Tonight, once Romo decided to pistol whip the Giants' defensive unit, I turned on the DNC where the owner of Costco gave a speech that was the aural equivalent of shopping there: bulky and unexciting.  Excuse me sir, can I get the four gallon tub of mayo and your political remedy for a faltering economy?  At least it didn’t resemble the Klan rally of the GOP; all those women and … [Read more...]


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