Best columns: The U.S.
The price of crying ‘racist!’
“Is American conservatism inherently bigoted?” asked Peter Beinart. For many liberals, the answer is obviously “Yes.” President Trump’s attacks on Mexicans, Muslims, and other minorities, combined with his half-hearted repudiations of white supremacists, have made Republican racism almost an article of faith in Democratic politics. But efforts to shame conservatives have backfired horribly. “Outrage at political correctness— fueled by the conviction that charges of bigotry are used to shut down legitimate discussion—has become more central to American conservatism.” After being constantly stigmatized as racists and homophobes, conservatives have adopted a siege mentality and are expressing more racial and cultural resentments. “Liberals would be wise to recognize this vicious cycle” and stop wielding the epithets “racist,” “bigot,” and “anti-Semitic” so promiscuously. Republicans do bear responsibility for renouncing egregious racists in their midst, as well as policies, such as Voter ID laws, that clearly have racial consequences. But to halt “the downward spiral” of cultural division, self-righteous liberals should remind themselves that values evolve over time, and that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama publicly opposed gay marriage until five years ago. Were they bigots until 2012? “Hatred and scorn” are easy. Empathy and persuasion are hard—but without them, our divisions will only deepen.
Trump’s authoritarian instincts
The Washington Post
President Trump’s view of the U.S. criminal justice system is a disturbing mix of “ignorance with contempt for constitutional values,” said Ruth Marcus. After New York City suffered a terrorist attack on Halloween, the president objected to trying the suspect in court, saying we need “punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than these animals are getting now,” and denounced our justice system as “a joke” and “a laughingstock.” This is the head of our government speaking? Trump’s slander is factually wrong: Since 9/11, more than 620 people have been convicted of terrorism-related charges, including Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was sentenced to death. Even more alarming was Trump’s “unhinged fury” after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted three of the president’s campaign aides. Trump said in interviews he’s “very frustrated” that he can’t just order the FBI and the Justice Department to go after Hillary Clinton. “The American public deserves it!” he tweeted. So far, the Justice Department has resisted Trump’s pressure to prosecute his 2016 political opponent, but “presidential wishes are hard to ignore, day after day.” If Trump had his way, our criminal justice system would become a laughingstock.
A victim’s tax on gunmakers
Mark Joseph Stern
Imagine you’re in a church, movie theater, concert, or school, and a mass shooter opens fire with an assault-style weapon designed to kill dozens of people in seconds. You wake up in a hospital with grievous wounds, having lost the ability to walk or care for yourself. You should be able to sue the manufacturer and gun dealer and use the money to pay your mammoth medical bills, said Mark Joseph Stern, but under a federal law passed in 2005, gun dealers and manufacturers cannot be sued by people hurt by their products. Indeed, “firearms are the only consumer products,” including vaccines, drugs, and automobiles, exempted from all liability. Why? Every day, an average of 315 people are shot in this country, and 222 survive, often with serious injuries that drive them into bankruptcy. A Congress cowed by the gun lobby will clearly not change the liability law, but states can help survivors by imposing a new tax on gun sales and firearms revenue, and creating a fund for victims. The firearms industry has made billions by creating and flooding the market with ever more destructive weapons, fueling a terrible crisis of gun violence. “It should be required to pay for it.” ■