Five Best Thursday Columns

Jonathan Chait on racism in the Obama era, Ross Douthat on the hopeless race conversation, Alex Roarty on Obamacare and white women, Kevin Glass on the "wonk gap," and Vauhini Vara on lower-middle-class families.

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Jonathan Chait at Daily Intelligencer on racism in the Obama era. Chait questions a National Review column by former GOP congressional nominee Quin Hillyer. In his column, Hillyer refers to President Obama as "utterly unembarrassed, utterly undeterred from any assertion of power he thinks he can get away with, tradition and propriety and the Constitution be damned. The man has no shame, no self-doubt, not a shred of humility." Chait responds, "Hillyer finds nothing uncomfortable at all about wrapping himself in a racist trope. He is either unaware of the freighted connotation of calling a black man uppity, or he doesn’t care." Perhaps this is because "Republicans, by a 60-40 margin, now believe discrimination against whites has grown to be a larger problem than discrimination against minorities." Fox News political analyst Brit Hume responds, ". finds that to some liberals, there are things one simply cannot say about a black man. i.e. Pres. Obama." The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn tweets, "One of the best things  has ever written — and that's saying something." Hillyer himself responds in another column for National Review.

Ross Douthat at The New York Times on "our hopeless conversation about race." Chait uses the recent film 12 Years a Slave in his column to make his point, which Douthat thinks is a mistake: "When you watch a film in which black people are kidnapped, sold as chattel, whipped and beaten ... and otherwise treated as subhumans in law and custom both, the gap between that kind of structural racism and the kind of structural racism that manifests itself in differential arrest and prosecution rates, wealth and income gaps ... could actually seem much, much larger than it did before you watched the worst realities of slavery depicted on screen. … a fruitful conversation about race in America, then, would require both sides to somehow pick a different starting point." But Douthat allows that Chait is correct in his point "that conservatives often have a blind spot about race, both where their movement’s history is concerned and when it comes to reckoning with the present-day burdens imposed on African Americans." The Washington Post's Ezra Klein tweets, "I’m convinced by both ’s post on slavery’s echoes and ’s rebuttal."

Alex Roarty at National Journal argues Obamacare is costing Democrats white women. "Democrats have a big problem with one of their most crucial constituencies — white women," Roarty writes. Especially blue-collar white women: according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 50 percent of them have a "very unfavorable" view of Obamacare. "While Democrats might ultimately be able to sell voters on a 'fix it, don’t repeal it' approach to Obamacare, the data show they’ve still got a lot more work to do," he argues. Townhall editor Conn Carroll tweets this line: "Remarkably, only 16 percent of blue-collar white women have a favorable view of Obamacare." The Washington Post's liberal columnist Greg Sargent responds, "I'm going to keep saying this, but disapproval does not translate into support for the GOP position of repeal."  

Kevin Glass at The Federalist on the "wonk gap." "Ever since President Obama endorsed a federal minimum wage hike in his State of the Union speech, progressives have lined up in lockstep support," Glass explains. But "in the late 1980s, The New York Times advocated for an abolition of the minimum wage." And so the "wonk gap has caused people like [liberal New York Times columnist] Paul Krugman to actually turn away from 'study, empirical analysis, and informed debate.' The intertwining of the left-wing intelligentsia with the Democratic Party has compromised the ability of many of these writers to actually think critically and accept that their opposition is also motivated by a genuine desire to do good and backed up with empirical evidence," Glass argues. ThinkProgress writer Zach Beauchamp tweets, "Interesting critique of economists and, er, people like me. Liberal writers should read."

Vauhini Vara at The New Yorker on the lower middle class. The Hamilton Project defines lower-middle-class families as those "with annual incomes between $15,000  (roughly the federal poverty level for a two-person household) and $60,000," Vara writes. "Many of these lower-middle-class families are still struggling to get by. ... All told, more than 30 percent of lower-middle-class people receive food stamps, unemployment benefits, welfare, or other benefits." This "reframes how we think about the people who access government benefits. Many of them, it turns out, are married, college educated, and working." 

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