Five Best Friday Columns

Fareed Zakaria on Putinism, Charles D. Ellison on Cory Booker and Rand Paul, Bloomberg View on Congress, Raina Lipsitz on the N.F.L., and Jamelle Bouie on poverty. 

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Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post on why some European leaders are turning away from Democracy and towards "Putinism." Zakaria writes that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who criticized the decline of Western Democracy in a speech last week, is an early adopter of this new political and governing ideology. "The crucial elements of Putinism are nationalism, religion, social conservatism, state capitalism and government domination of the media. They are all, in some way or another, different from and hostile to, modern Western values of individual rights, tolerance, cosmopolitanism and internationalism. It would be a mistake to believe that Putin’s ideology created his popularity — he was popular before — but it sustains his popularity." Whether or not more leaders will embrace Putinism ultimately depend on whether or not Vladimir Putin succeeds, Zakaria writes. "If he triumphs in Ukraine, turning it into a basket case that eventually comes begging to Moscow, he will look like a winner. If, on the other hand, Ukraine succeeds outside of Russia’s orbit and the Russian economy continues to weaken, Putin might find himself presiding over a globally isolated Siberian petro-state."

Charles D. Ellison in Politico on how Rand Paul and Cory Booker's new friendship could be mutually beneficial. Ellison discusses Booker and Paul's new push to address the sentencing for non-violent drug offenses, which disproportionately affects the black community. "Clearly, anything about reforming pot laws and keeping folks out of jail wins over Millennials, a hot strategic commodity that’s enticing Paul and Booker to use one another. Paul’s greatest political asset is his unpredictability, and spiting conventional demographic wisdom could help Republicans defy expectations. Even with Millennials projected to make up nearly 40 percent of eligible voters in 2016, just because they’re young doesn’t necessarily mean they’re giving Democrats a solid." Ellison writes that if Paul, a 2016 GOP 2016 frontrunner, makes even a slight dent in the Democrats lock on African American and youth voters, it could have profound electoral effects. "In 2016, the issue won’t be so much how high or how low crucial black turnout will be. The question will center on just how much black voters will like or dislike the Republican guy. If Paul can keep the black anti-GOP heat low, he might find a narrow path to the White House by keeping African-American turnout for Democrats under, say, 85 percent."

Bloomberg View on how Congressional Republicans have hit a new low with their failure to pass their own immigration bill. "House Republicans produced a bill that spent too much on border theatrics and too little ensuring legitimate refugee cases could be properly heard and administered. It started out at $1.5 billion, which was whittled to $659 million as they negotiated with themselves. They went downhill from there, attempting to placate the same implacable people they always attempt, fruitlessly, to placate." The editors stress the importance of dealing with the crisis on the border and criticizes Republicans for ineffectiveness. "... House leaders have delayed a planned recess, in the apparent hope that they can still achieve the goal of appearing to do something. When members return, Election Day will be that much closer. It's not easy to imagine that this Congress could reach new lows. But it may."

Raina Lipsitz in Al Jazeera America on how the N.F.L. has failed to properly address domestic violence. Lipsitz writes in the wake of video of the Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice dragging his unconscious girlfriend out of an elevator after hitting her. "Research about whether male athletes are more likely than men in general to commit violence against women is inconclusive, but evidence abounds that professional athletes are not punished by their leagues, teams or the criminal justice system as harshly or as consistently as members of the general public. Thanks to a spate of high-profile cases, it’s become clear in recent years that the NFL has a higher tolerance for violence against women than for almost any other form of misconduct." She continues, "NFL players are probably no likelier than other men to abuse women. But they are much likelier to be excused by the good old boys at the NFL for doing so — in the words of the Ravens’ coach, John Harbaugh, Rice is a 'heck of a guy' who made 'a mistake' — and to escape serious consequences for their actions."

Jamelle Bouie in Slate on why the Federal Government should control the social safety net, not the states. Bouie writes about Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant's decision to not expand Medicaid as an example that shows states have too much power to make decisions that hurt the poor. "Outside of the basics, however, states have considerable discretion in how they tailor their programs. In keeping with their histories as low-tax, low-service states, places like Alabama and Mississippi have aimed for the minimum, providing as little as possible to poorer residents. Neither state offers benefits to childless adults, and both extend benefits only to people far below the federal poverty line (23 percent of the line for Alabama and 29 percent for Mississippi). That captures the poorest residents, but it excludes tens of thousands of poor and low-income households who make no more than a few thousand dollars." He concludes, "On a whole constellation of issues, federalism has its place. But when it comes to sending help to poor people, let’s set it aside."

Correction: An earlier version of this post credited the Charles D. Ellison piece to The New Republic. It was actually published by Politico. We regret the error.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.