Five Best Thursday Columns

Theda Skocpol on the Tea Party's staying power, Alexander Stille on women for the Panthéon, E.J. Dionne on Bill de Blasio, John Aziz on Abenomics, and Medea Benjamin on closing Gitmo. 

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Theda Skocpol at The Atlantic on the Tea Party's staying power. "The Tea Party was supposed to be dead and the GOP on the way to moderate repositioning after Obama’s victory and Democratic congressional gains in November 2012," Skocpol, a Harvard sociologist and political scientist, reminds us. "Yet less than a year after post-election GOP soul-searching supposedly occurred, radical forces pulled almost all GOP House and Senate members into" a government shutdown. "The Tea Party’s hold on the GOP persists beyond each burial ceremony," Skocpol argues. "Here is the key point: Even though there is no one center of Tea Party authority — indeed, in some ways because there is no one organized center — the entire gaggle of grassroots and elite organizations amounts to a pincer operation that wields money and primary votes to exert powerful pressure on Republican officeholders and candidates." It could take years to "root out radical obstructionism on the right," Skocpol argues.

Alexander Stille at The New Yorker on women for the Panthéon. "Carved into the façade of the Panthéon, the huge domed stone structure in Paris’s Latin Quarter, are the words Aux grands hommes, la patrie reconnaissante.''To the great men, a grateful fatherland.' This is France’s secular temple to itself, a curious necropolis conceived during the French Revolution to celebrate a new cult of the nation around the bodies of its heroes," Stille explains. But only two of the 73 great people buried there are women. He continues, "The question of the Panthéon’s future has thus set off a national debate, a search for self-definition. Can one even really establish who the 'great men' — or women — of a country’s history and culture are? ... There is, at least, a growing consensus that the next to be panthéonisé will be a woman." Perhaps even Josephine Baker, the black American dancer popular in France during the 1920s and 30s — she became a French citizen in 1937, Stille points out. Rachel Syme, who is currently writing a book about the Lost Generation, recommends the piece.

E.J. Dionne at The Washington Post on New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. "The standard line on New York City’s Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who takes office Wednesday, is that he’s the antithesis of outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg. That’s not quite true, and New York’s voters probably hope it isn’t. In electing de Blasio, they were looking for a course correction from the Bloomberg years, not a repudiation," Dionne argues. But "to achieve his goals, de Blasio will need the evidence-based approach and crisp management style that Bloomberg championed." In Dionne's view, "the most heralded progressive politicians have been those who married their quest for social justice with reform-minded efficiency." De Blasio could learn the necessary skills from Bloomberg.

John Aziz at The Week says Abenomics is working. "It has been one year since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe entered office and launched Abenomics — a three-pronged plan of monetary stimulus, fiscal stimulus, and structural reform — to lift Japan's economy out of two decades of deflation and economic depression," Aziz explains. Some economists and investors worried that the plan would lead to spiked investment rates, but Aziz says that hasn't happened yet. In fact "the first two parts of Abenomics — monetary stimulus and fiscal stimulus — are beginning to hit their targets," Aziz argues. Slate's economics and finance blogger Matt Yglesias recommends the post.

Medea Benjamin at Al Jazeera English on closing Gitmo. "Perhaps the most notorious of U.S. prisons is Guantanamo Bay, our own 'Gulag' that became synonymous after 9/11 with indefinite detention without charge, and inhumane conditions ranging from desecration of prisoners' holy books to torture," Benjamin explains. "When Obama first came into office, 240 individuals were still detained in Guantanamo, most for more than 11 years. Only 24 were considered to be guilty of plotting against the U.S.," she argues. And "five years later, 158 prisoners remain in Guantanamo — all still held without charge or trial. Seventy-nine have been cleared for release, but remain isolated and behind bars, thousands of miles from home." Benjamin insists, "Let's right the wrong" and let innocent prisoners go home. Imran Awan, a criminologist with a focus on Muslim terrorists, tweets, "Emulate Mandela, free Guantanamo prisoners."

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