Best columns: The U.S.
Colleges suppressing free speech
“America’s colleges and universities have a free speech problem,” said Glenn Reynolds. The same campus leftists who are frantically warning that Donald Trump is ushering in a fascist dystopia are trying to silence conservatives who dare to challenge their views. Consider the ugly spectacle last week at the University of California, Berkeley. Rightwing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos “had to be evacuated, and his speech canceled, because masked rioters beat people, smashed windows, and started fires” on and off campus, causing $100,000 in damages. At Marquette University, an employee tried to shut down conservative speaker Ben Shapiro by encouraging people to reserve all the seats in the lecture hall—and then not show up. At New York University, rightwing Vice.com co-founder Gavin MacInnes “was met with an angry mob that forced him to cut his talk short.” On campuses throughout the nation, liberal bullies act with impunity, as administrators shrug at their misbehavior. This needs to stop. Authorities should enforce federal laws against depriving citizens of their constitutional rights, including free speech. And if colleges continue to “discriminate against students because of their political views,” they should lose federal funding.
The growing GOP alarm about Trump
“The arranged marriage between Donald Trump and Capitol Hill Republicans” is already fraying, said A.B. Stoddard. The GOP is “euphoric” about the president’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, but is privately expressing alarm and frustration over Trump’s erratic behavior. “GOP lawmakers are horrified that he yelled at foreign allies over the phone, frustrated by his management incompetence that turned an immigration and travel ban into a political fiasco, [and] conflicted about how to cover the cost of a border wall they admit Mexico will never pay for.” His claim the GOP will replace Obamacare with “great health care for everyone” has filled lawmakers with “dread,” making “replace” much harder. Congressional Republicans are facing “more constituent pushback than they can remember, with phone calls to congressional offices breaking records.” For now, most Republicans are holding their fire, fearing a primary challenge from Trump loyalists in 2018. But every day brings more unhinged Trump behavior “for members of Congress to run from.” When asked about some of Trump’s remarks, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “Let’s talk about policy.” But how long will that answer suffice?
Why Franken might run for president
Is Sen. Al Franken emerging as the Democrats’ strongest contender for the 2020 presidential nomination? asked Josh Kraushaar. During hearings on President Trump’s Cabinet nominees, the former comedian impressed colleagues and liberal activists with his sharp, informed, and aggressive grilling of Jeff Sessions, Tom Price, and Betsy DeVos. Franken will also be one of nine Democrats on the Judiciary Committee questioning Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Those high-profile hearings could serve as a springboard for Franken to become the party’s most visible and popular elected official. Since he arrived in the Senate in 2008, the Minnesota Democrat has largely kept a low profile, working diligently behind the scenes. In 2014 he won re-election despite a Republican tide, partly by wooing rural, working-class voters with his Bernie Sanders–like advocacy for protectionist trade policies. And though Franken is still identified in many Americans’ minds with his stint on Saturday Night Live, he was educated at Harvard and has proven policy chops. Yet he still wields a sarcastic wit that can provoke gusts of laughter even at dull Senate hearings. If Democrats want “their own famous face to challenge Trump, Franken fits the bill as well as anyone.”
“There is no guarantee that Obamacare will survive. The Republican majority may decide melting down the health-care markets is worth the backlash. Still, the pattern of the three months since the election shows the cause of Obamacare repeal collapsing. Obama and his party were able to design a plan that squared the minimal humanitarian needs of the public with the demands of the medical industry. There is no evidence at all that Trump and his party can do the same. It is dawning on the Republicans that the cost of destroying this achievement in social policy may well be to destroy their majority.”
Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com