The normally Republican-phobic continent is taking a surprising shine to the lead GOP candidate, which it sees as a champion against the fringe
Mitt Romney, the GOP forerunner, met with fanfare on his recent travel to Europe./ Reuters
The presidential primaries look a little different from across the Atlantic, and not necessarily in the way that you'd expect. The coverage isn't an Obama love-fest as it was early in his presidency, nor is it entirely GOP-bashing. That said, mainstream Europe -- whose open antagonism toward the Republican party appears to have faded somewhat since the Bush years ended, despite an uptick during the health care debates -- is clearly fascinated by the current split in the Republican party. And, in the split, thus far Europeans would prefer Romney.
The European media has presented a fairly clear narrative of the primary to date: Romney's the leader but he doesn't excite Republicans -- that's the basic message. Perhaps because there's been less discussion of individual polls, there's been less hype about the as-yet short-lived leads by Herman Cain, Ron Paul, or Rick Perry. That also means, though, that there's been less journalistic reveling in the wackiness of what European (as well as some American) publications tend to portray as the wild-eyed Republican fringe. There's a hint of wariness, but it's not the full-blown incomprehension, derision, and fear that has occasionally been expressed on Continental op-ed pages.
But what Europe really does seem interested in is the split in the Republican party. "The Iowa presidential primaries reveal deep divisions among the Republicans," proclaims German paper Die Welt. An opinion in French Le Monde riffs on "Mitt Romney and the fatwas of the Republican Party." Libérationdescribes the "Christian right" as "torn," while Spanish El Paíssuggests Obama may be "tak[ing] advantage" of the Republican divide.
Thus far, European media voices have also expressed a strong preference for Romney over the other contenders. Clemens Wergin, for example, writes for Die Welt that the results in Iowa "show how uncertain the conservative movement in America is of its own identity." Mitt Romney represents the "classic, pragmatic, business-oriented branch." Then there's the "Christian, archconservative" side represented by Rick Santorum. Ron Paul "stands for the anti-state, radical libertarian impulses of America and for many populist reflexes. At the same time he's the candidate from whom there is the most to fear."
If that wasn't clear enough, how about this summary: "the good news from Iowa is that in this highly social conservative and less diverse state the moderate Romney can still win." Wergin adds that the "bad news" is that Paul is still a factor at all:
The Paul phenomenon makes it clear that there is an eerie potential for anger in the current conditions in America [...] It is an anger that above all feeds on the fact that the classic midle class dream of mobility in America is being dashed. Even well-educated young Americans today have huge problems getting a job appropriate to their training. [...] The vote in Iowa shows that conservatives in America apparently still don't know what they want to be: culture warriors? Isolationists? Moralists? Tied to the economy? Anti-establishment populists? Thus the Republican primary system is still good for some surprises.
The editorial board of French paper Le Monde pulls even fewer punches: it sees the difficulty Romney is having gaining support as evidence of the "ultra-right drift" in the Republican party (El País, to compare,calls it "petrified on the right"). Write the editors: "This is worrying for the U.S. -- and the rest of the world."
The standard negative narrative for Romney in the U.S. is that he's a chameleon, changing positions according to political expediency. Most liberals in America didn't take his liberal drift while governor of Massachusetts any more seriously than Republicans take his conservative drift at present. But that's not the way Le Monde sees it. The French paper sees Romney fundamentally as a moderate who "is winning only by aligning himself with the new catechism of the [Republican] party."
Previously, this narrative goes, Romney was "a New England Patrician [...] He governed Massachusetts form the center, with talent. He installed a universal system of health insurance. He defended the rights of sexual minorities, as well as that of women to abortion. He practiced a balanced budget policy. He was careful to defend the environment." Now, "he has conformed to what The Economist calls a 'list of fatwas' making up the new Republican creed." Now, "Romney is no longer the centrist he was in Boston. He no longer believes in climate change. He's opposed to abortion and gay marriage."
This French offering may be the starkest and most anti-conservative of the prominent views, but it's worth noting that the point of the article isn't to glorify Obama in contrasts. Though the final sentence admits the Republican drift is probably good for Obama, "it's bad for American democracy."
Therein lies the key to understanding this kind of European thinking. While it's important to realize this is all analytical shorthand -- Europe as a whole does not think with one mind, and even opinions on the same general path tend to diverge on specifics -- it's hard not to read a common thread in some of the media coverage of the Republican primaries. Contrary to what some might think, the tone even in condemnations isn't one of pure disdain: this is not a case of Europeans looking down their noses at Americans' Tea Party antics, the unstated view being that they'd never occur in Europe.
Arguably, it's precisely because Europe has seen its own Tea Parties that the media is so wary of America's right wing. No, this is not just another Nazi comparison: people often forget that Hitler was hardly Europe's only brush with fascism or populism gone wild. There are the extreme examples -- the French Revolution, France's July Revolution of 1830, the Revolutions of 1848, the Paris Commune, and on. But there's also a Christian right in Europe today: for example, Jean-Marie Le Pen's Tea-Party-like opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, and immigration. Despite the strong trend of European media wariness toward people like Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Ron Paul, European opinion and historical experience is clearly quite diverse. And that may be exactly what's informing the current across-the-water fascination with the Republican split.
Without the financial support that many white families can provide, minority young people have to continually make sacrifices that set them back.
He died on a Saturday.
My mother and I had planned to pick my dad up from the hospital for a trip to the park. He loved to sit and watch families stroll by as we chatted about oak trees, Kona coffee, and the mysteries of God. This time, the park would miss him.
His skin, smooth and brown like the outside of an avocado seed, glistened with sweat as he struggled to take his last breaths.
In that next year, I graduated from grad school, got a new job, and looked forward to saving for a down payment on my first home, a dream I had always had, but found lofty. I pulled up a blank spreadsheet and made a line item called “House Fund.”
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Places like St. Louis and New York City were once similarly prosperous. Then, 30 years ago, the United States turned its back on the policies that had been encouraging parity.
Despite all the attention focused these days on the fortunes of the “1 percent,” debates over inequality still tend to ignore one of its most politically destabilizing and economically destructive forms. This is the growing, and historically unprecedented, economic divide that has emerged in recent decades among the different regions of the United States.
Until the early 1980s, a long-running feature of American history was the gradual convergence of income across regions. The trend goes back to at least the 1840s, but grew particularly strong during the middle decades of the 20th century. This was, in part, a result of the South catching up with the North in its economic development. As late as 1940, per-capita income in Mississippi, for example, was still less than one-quarter that of Connecticut. Over the next 40 years, Mississippians saw their incomes rise much faster than did residents of Connecticut, until by 1980 the gap in income had shrunk to 58 percent.
A Chicago cop now faces murder charges—but will anyone hold his colleagues, his superiors, and elected officials accountable for their failures?
Thanks to clear video evidence, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was charged this week with first-degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Nevertheless, thousands of people took to the city’s streets on Friday in protest. And that is as it should be.
The needlessness of the killing is clear and unambiguous:
Yet that dash-cam footage was suppressed for more than a year by authorities citing an investigation. “There was no mystery, no dead-end leads to pursue, no ambiguity about who fired the shots,” Eric Zorn wrote in The Chicago Tribune. “Who was pursuing justice and the truth? What were they doing? Who were they talking to? With whom were they meeting? What were they trying to figure out for 400 days?”
Why are so many kids with bright prospects killing themselves in Palo Alto?
The air shrieks, and life stops. First, from far away, comes a high whine like angry insects swarming, and then a trampling, like a herd moving through. The kids on their bikes who pass by the Caltrain crossing are eager to get home from school, but they know the drill. Brake. Wait for the train to pass. Five cars, double-decker, tearing past at 50 miles an hour. Too fast to see the faces of the Silicon Valley commuters on board, only a long silver thing with black teeth. A Caltrain coming into a station slows, invites you in. But a Caltrain at a crossing registers more like an ambulance, warning you fiercely out of its way.
The kids wait until the passing train forces a gust you can feel on your skin. The alarms ring and the red lights flash for a few seconds more, just in case. Then the gate lifts up, signaling that it’s safe to cross. All at once life revives: a rush of bikes, skateboards, helmets, backpacks, basketball shorts, boisterous conversation. “Ew, how old is that gum?” “The quiz is next week, dipshit.” On the road, a minivan makes a left a little too fast—nothing ominous, just a mom late for pickup. The air is again still, like it usually is in spring in Palo Alto. A woodpecker does its work nearby. A bee goes in search of jasmine, stinging no one.
The sport is becoming an enterprise where underprivileged young men risk their health for the financial benefit of the wealthy.
Football can be a force for good. The University of Missouri’s football team proved it earlier this month when student athletes took a facet of campus life that’s often decried—the cultural and economic dominance of college football—and turned it into a powerful leverage point in the pursuit of social justice. Football can build a sense of community for players and fans alike, and serve as a welcome escape from the pressures of ordinary life. The sport cuts across distinctions of race, class, geography, and religion in a way few other U.S. institutions do, and everyone who participates reaps the benefits.
But not everyone—particularly at the amateur level—takes on an equal share of the risk. College football in particular seems headed toward a future in which it’s consumed by people born into privilege while the sport consumes people born without it. In a 2010 piece in The Awl, Cord Jefferson wrote, “Where some see the Super Bowl, I see young black men risking their bodies, minds, and futures for the joy and wealth of old white men.” This vision sounds dystopian but is quickly becoming an undeniable reality, given new statistics about how education affects awareness about brain-injury risk, as well as the racial makeup of Division I rosters and coaching staffs. The future of college football indeed looks a lot like what Jefferson called “glorified servitude,” and even as information comes to light about the dangers and injustices of football, nothing is currently being done to steer the sport away from that path.
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
Nuts-and-bolts Washington coverage has shifted to subscription-based publications, while the capitol’s traditional outlets have shrunk.
Back in 2009, I had a job with a Washington, D.C.-based newsletter called Water Policy Report. It wasn’t exactly a household name, but I was covering Congress, the federal courts, and the Environmental Protection Agency—a definite step up from the greased-pig-catching contests and crime-blotter stories I had chased at a community newspaper on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, my first job out of college.
One of my responsibilities at the newsletter was to check the Federal Register—the official portal that government agencies use to inform the public about regulatory actions. In December of that year I noticed an item that said that the Environmental Protection Agency had decided that existing pollution controls for offshore oil-drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico were adequate, and that there wasn’t enough pollution coming from those platforms to warrant further review or action.
It was widely seen as a counter-argument to claims that poor people are "to blame" for bad decisions and a rebuke to policies that withhold money from the poorest families unless they behave in a certain way. After all, if being poor leads to bad decision-making (as opposed to the other way around), then giving cash should alleviate the cognitive burdens of poverty, all on its own.
Sometimes, science doesn't stick without a proper anecdote, and "Why I Make Terrible Decisions," a comment published on Gawker's Kinja platform by a person in poverty, is a devastating illustration of the Science study. I've bolded what I found the most moving, insightful portions, but it's a moving and insightful testimony all the way through.
“Wanting and not wanting the same thing at the same time is a baseline condition of human consciousness.”
Gary Noesner is a former FBI hostage negotiator. For part of the 51-day standoff outside the Branch Davidian religious compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993, he was the strategic coordinator for negotiations with the compound’s leader, David Koresh. This siege ended in infamous tragedy: The FBI launched a tear-gas attack on the compound, which burned to the ground, killing 76 people inside. But before Noesner was rotated out of his position as the siege’s head negotiator, he and his team secured the release of 35 people.
Jamie Holmes, a Future Tense Fellow at New America, spoke to Noesner for his new book Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing. “My experience suggests,” Noesner told Holmes, “that in the overwhelming majority of these cases, people are confused and ambivalent. Part of them wants to die, part of them wants to live. Part of them wants to surrender, part of them doesn’t want to surrender.” And good negotiators, Noesner says, are “people who can dwell fairly effectively in the areas of gray, in the uncertainties and ambiguities of life.”