Posts in: Politics

Know Your Enemy (podcast): On Barbara Ehrenreich (w/ Alex Press & Gabriel Winant) 🎙️

This episode was unplanned, but when Barbara Ehrenreich died on September 1, 2022, we felt an urge to honor her memory and the profound influence she has had on the American left, socialism, feminism, and our collective thinking about class struggle. From her work in the women’s health movement of the 1960s, to her theorizing (with ex-husband John Ehrenreich) of the “professional-managerial class” in the 1970s, to her explorations of Reagan-era yuppie pathologies, and her renowned exposĂ© of low-wage work in 2001’s Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich has been an essential and nuanced guide to the inner-life of American class conflict in the latter half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st.

It’s been nearly 20 years since I read Nickel and Dimed, assigned to all incoming freshmen at my college. I have since read some of Ehrenreich’s other 21st century books, in particular I remember Bait and Switch and Bright-Sided being quite good.

Rest in Peace.

Fifty Years After the Watergate Break-in

Stuart Streichler, Boston Review: Watergate’s Ironic Legacy Looking back at how Watergate progressed, it remains unclear how much we can attribute Nixon’s undoing to the Constitution working or how much owes to lucky breaks and the unique collection of personalities involved. Even if the rule of law ultimately prevailed in Watergate, it has become more difficult to contest presidential power since. Paradoxically, in the process of dealing with President Nixon, the institutions involved—Congress, the Supreme Court, and the special prosecutor—set precedents that made it harder to check a runaway presidency.

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Jamelle Bouie: Why Republicans Are So Angry About the Supreme Court Leak

When McConnell led the Senate Republican caucus in a blockade of President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court in 2016 and then killed what remained of the judicial filibuster the next year to place Neil Gorsuch in the seat instead, they diminished the legitimacy of the court. When those same Republicans looked past a credible accusation of sexual assault to confirm Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, they again diminished the legitimacy of the court. And when, with weeks left before the 2020 presidential election, Republicans ignored their own rule from four years earlier — that an election-year vacancy “should not be filled until we have a new president” — to place Amy Coney Barrett on the bench in a rushed, slapdash process, they once more diminished the legitimacy of the court.

What’s more, their occasional protests notwithstanding (in a speech last year at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, Barrett insisted the court was “not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks”), the court’s conservatives have done almost nothing to dispel the view that their majority is little more than the judicial arm of the Republican Party. They use “emergency” orders to issue sweeping rulings in favor of ideologically aligned groups; they invent new doctrines designed to undermine voting rights protections; and as we’ve just witnessed, they’ll let nothing, not even 50 years of precedent, stand in the way of a sweeping ideological victory.

We found rage in a hopeless place

With the sheer connectivity and externalization of interior emotion in the 21st century, there’s probably a sharper awareness of the grand totality of angers flowing around at any given moment, and what it’s like to feel, get indicted by, or caught up in them. The social platforms give us this neon cat’s-in-the-cradle paradigm where you can see how X leads to Y, and pulling here tightens this over there. Whatever problems existed before the pandemic, they just seem to have been frozen in time and deepened, along with all the new iterations.

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