State of Mind
As a solution to conservatives’ stranglehold on federal politics, Jonathan Taplin posits a progressive federalism, under which environmental, economic, civil rights, and other reforms are undertaken by states with a liberal or left-leaning majority [“Rebirth of a Nation,” Essay, November]. However, this does not address the core problem and is not even an assured short-term solution.
The great fear when the Constitution was adopted was tyranny of the majority. What we now face instead is tyranny of the minority. Twenty-six states with 18 percent of the population elect a majority of the Senate, while nine states with an absolute majority of the population elect eighteen senators. The country has only two peaceful choices: continued tyranny or constitutional reform. The adoption of progressive federalism will not avoid that stark reality.
Ivan T. Webber
West Des Moines, Iowa
I would love to believe in Taplin’s plan for states to advance a more progressive future, but I fear that his hopes are based on the same delusional thinking that has led the Democratic Party to continually embrace Clintonian “Third Way” politics as a sensible route to electoral victory. Taplin appears to expect the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to keep advancing states’ rights by hewing to their proclaimed constitutional originalism, despite evidence demonstrating that these justices are often only originalist when it serves their ideological goals.
Though there may well be some Republican figures urging the electorate to restore a more reasonable Democratic majority to Congress, many of those Taplin discusses are not among them. For instance, John Kasich, though opposed personally to Trump, has endorsed corporate tax cuts, advocated for banning abortion, and slashed public-school funding. There is little evidence that such figures will be a moderating force against conservative extremism, and they should provide even less comfort than the supposed consistency of the courts.
I commend Kevin Baker for identifying the link between Gavrilo Princip and the gallery of similar actors who’ve taken ethnonationalism to violent extremes [“The Ghosts of Versailles,” Easy Chair, November]. When we think of the power of group identity as the driver of senseless cruelty and violence against “the other,” we might best remember that the underlying force is not any particular identity but the more primal need to matter, to be anchored to something, to anything, in a limitless and frightening universe. As Princip and those who validated his actions with their own have shown us, people are generally not content with a marginal role in someone else’s story.
Unfortunately, we now have a president whose political success rests on exploiting this fear and capitalizing on some people’s fundamental predisposition to see life as a zero-sum game. He will of course eventually depart the stage, but unless we can figure out a way to harmonize narratives and satisfy everyone’s need to be something more than cosmic dust, we are likely to follow this path to its disastrous end.
A Bridge Too Far
Tanya Gold responds to letters from the December 2018 issue regarding her article “Among Britain’s Anti-Semites” [Letter from the United Kingdom, October]:
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi calls the belief in anti-Semitism on the British left “hysteria,” despite evidence to the contrary. In early November, for instance, it was reported that Liam Moore, a candidate for a safe council seat, was revealed to have written, on Twitter, “We are seeing a very English right wing Zionist coup mate and sadly the Labour Party is infiltrated by sell outs who would sacrifice a labour government for their 30 pieces of silver.” The local party unanimously rejected his resignation. Another local branch rejected a motion to condemn the recent murders at a Pittsburgh synagogue. All this from the party that, according to Wimborne-Idrissi, has no problem with Jews. Instead, she accuses me of bad faith and selective reporting because I cannot close my eyes to these problems.
Jackie Walker, meanwhile, contemptuously labels the anti-Semitism problems a “so-called” crisis. Walker, who is Jewish, says I failed to note that some of those close to Jeremy Corbyn are Jewish and even Zionists; perhaps she missed the part of the article where I said that Jon Lansman, the founder of the pro-Corbyn pressure group Momentum, is Jewish, and has been gravely insulted for it? I guess she also missed the part where I noted that Jewish Voice for Labour and Jewdas are both founded and run by Jews.
She says we desperately need a bridge between opposing sides, and she is right. But I see no bridge-building at her public appearances, which merely inflame attitudes toward Jews who do not share her anti-Zionism. She claims that the anti-Semitism crisis is not serious, except when she is challenged for her views on the insignificance of anti-Semitism, and then, therefore, becomes the victim of anti-Semitism. She says anti-Semitism is not more special than other forms of racism. That is true, but it is not less special either. The week I first met her, in 2016, she questioned the need for security in Jewish communal spaces, as if it was just another form of Jewish privilege.
It is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel. It would be mad to say otherwise. But it is, I believe, anti-Semitic to call for its eradication as a Jewish state, or claim that it is irredeemable in any form. Thomas Suárez calls me an anti-Semite merely for noting the deep emotional relationship that some Jews have with Israel. A discourse in which Jews are labeled as such for speaking in their own defense is a despicable contortion, and dishonest.
These correspondents may swallow their own delusions. They cannot expect others to do the same.