Economic Strengths: Just as analysts expected, the U.S. Federal Reserve voted to raise interest rates today, a move that reflects confidence in the strength of the still-recovering economy. Economic worries were among the strongest factors that brought Trump to the White House: His rhetoric—if not the specifics of his policies—gave voters a satisfying answer to their personal concerns by promising to put them first. Yet now that Trump is president, the populist ideals of his candidacy seem to be falling away—replaced by a much more traditional brand of conservatism. Meanwhile, a couple pages of his long-awaited tax returns were released last night—but they reveal much less than Trump’s critics expected.
Climate Changes: Seventeen GOP lawmakers are calling on the House to take legislative action to “address the causes and effects” of climate change. They face some tough opposition in Trump’s government: Not only does the new head of the EPA deny climate science (albeit to widespread criticism), but the House Science Committee chair, Lamar Smith, proposed two new bills that would cut that agency off from the scientific evidence and experts its policies rely on. And that science reveals a lot—for example, take these new findings on how today’s global-warming trends line up with those preceding mass extinctions in the distant past.
Paying for College: Today marked a number of schools’ deadlines for students to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a process that got held up this month by a serious glitch in the online application tool. Such aid is sorely needed: A new report finds that about 14 percent of community-college students are homeless, while as many as two-thirds don’t have reliable access to adequate food—often in spite of working, receiving aid, or taking out loans to finance their education. But here’s one solution: At Purdue University, a new financial-aid model helps students avoid debt by lending them money out of its own endowment.
Chris Murphy sensed well before most people that the 2016 election would largely revolve around U.S. foreign policy. Not foreign policy in the narrow, traditional sense—as in, which candidate had the better plan to deal with Russia or defeat ISIS. Rather, foreign policy in its most primal sense—as in, how America should interact with the world beyond its borders and how Americans should conceive of nationhood in an age of globalization. On issues ranging from trade to terrorism to immigration, Donald Trump reopened a debate on these broad questions, which candidates from both parties had previously treated as settled. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, focused on policy specifics. We know who won that argument, at least for the moment. …
Ultimately, however, neither Bernie Sanders nor Clinton, whom Murphy endorsed for president, “really represented my views,” Murphy told me, “and I think that there is a big open space in the Democratic Party right now for the articulation of a progressive foreign policy.”
On this day in 1913, Woodrow Wilson held the first presidential press conference. It was an awkward affair by allaccounts, but the president evidently believed in its importance. As Wilson had written in our November 1889 issue:
Looked at in the large, the newspaper press is a type of democracy, bringing all men without distinction under comment made by any man without distinction; every topic is reduced to a common standard of news; everything noted and argued about by everybody. Nothing could give surer promise of popular power than the activity and alertness of thought which are made through such agencies to accompany the training of the public schools.
I have seen some evidence of the positive effects of congregational life on partisanship, and I do think it helps people move away from seeing those who differ from them as the “other”—IF the congregation is politically diverse. Congregational life can also serve as a reality check and as a corrective to nakedly partisan and false statements that might otherwise be believed.
For example, I was told when I arrived at my present congregation in 2011 that the congregation was mostly conservative, with a few outspoken liberals. But soon after, a local Republican politician asserted that our county “doesn’t have any really poor people.” This was greeted with hoots of derision from many Republicans in the congregation, who knew from the church’s charitable work how very untrue this was. They believe their own eyes, whatever their party affiliation might be. And yet, there were other conservatives in our area who accepted the politician’s statements without question.
There aren’t a lot of organizations left in society that aren’t segregated by age group or by partisanship. The church needs to be one of them.