“How to Protect America From the Next Donald Trump.” While proposals to abolish the Electoral College are popular at the moment, Bryan Garsten recommends strengthening the constitutional culture and local institutions designed to restrain demagogues:
The college-educated elite and well-meaning technocrats may say that expert rule is the only alternative to demagogues, but they are wrong. When we allow them to rule, we fuel popular frustration and drive people into the arms of demagogues in reaction. The real alternative is to strengthen our ability to govern ourselves well by supporting the kinds of schools and jobs that train us in the habits of citizenship, by creating the background conditions in which we can solve more problems in our families and communities, and by reforming electoral systems and legislative procedures to strengthen the incentives for politicians to move beyond demagoguery. Too many of us are guilty of prioritizing immediate policy outcomes over the work of maintaining a system of self-government that will bring out the best in us over the long term.
(Recommended by Tom Bilbro).
“A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.” Jamie Smith launches his newsletter with an injunction to “resist a creeping totalitarianism about politics,” a reflection on a painting he saw at a regional art museum, and some thoughts on Robinson’s Jack.
”The Human Experience Will Not Be Quantified.” In this moving essay, Phil Klay reflects on what science can and can’t do: “As much as we’d like to believe in “science over fiction,” decisions in the real world require negotiating between what we think the data means, what human value we’d like to assign to it and what stories about it we can get others to accept. Data alone is not knowledge, and it is certainly not wisdom. It rarely says as much as we think it does.”
“Christian Hospitality in an Age of Fear: An Interview with Rod Dreher.” Jake Meador interviews Rod Dreher about his new book: “Friendship is one of the key elements of a healthy society. And I think we’re living through a time right now, ideologically and otherwise, where friendships are really strained.”
“Escaping the Dire Hose.” Robert L. Kehoe III interviews Alan Jacobs about his new book: “My skepticism about symbol manipulation is one of the reasons I focus on the experience of encountering voices from the past, and recognizing their humanity in all its strangeness, rather than on the development of new narratives of history that are supposed to effect change.”
“2020’s Best-kept Literary Secret.” Jane Greer reviews Marly Youmans’s new novel Charis in the World of Wonders: A Novel Set in Puritan New England and commends it highly: “I read Charis in the World of Wonders in March, and then again just six months later for this review. It was even better the second time. It’s broad and deep, sweet and savage, funny and terrifying, and just plain grand.”
“It Took a Group of Black Farmers to Start Fixing Land Ownership Problems in Detroit.” Rhonda J. Smith describes how crowdfunding and new city regulations are helping more Black farmers in Detroit buy the lots they are already growing food on.
“Biden Can Start to Heal America by Embracing Foreign Policy Restraint.” Andrew Bacevich recommends that President Biden make good on Trump’s promises to bring America’s troops home: “Nothing in Joe Biden’s long career suggests that he will become an overtly antiwar president. But should he foster an approach to national security that emphasizes military restraint and creative diplomacy, he just might make a first step toward healing a broken democracy.”
“Towards a Conservatism of the Heart: A Roadmap for ISI’s Future.” John A. Burtka, IV lays out his vision as the new president of ISI—it’s a vision of conservatism rooted in affection and belonging rather than ideology or policy.
“Who’d Bother Having Babies?” Louise Perry considers the cultural and personal reasons why more and more educated Britons—and other Westerners—are choosing not to have children: ”kids limit freedom. If you subscribe to an ideology that privileges freedom above all else, then why on earth would you want children?”
“Proteus Unbound: Money Culture’s Conquest of the American Family.” Ian Marcus Corbin traces the myriad ways that families are unraveled by the pursuit of career and monetary success: ”A protean culture like ours is ultimately a nihilistic one—nothing here and now, nothing visible or graspable is worthy of my commitment. The only thing I’m sure of is that I need to maintain my ability to wriggle free of any belonging, to trade this thing I have for that, should future inclination demand it, which of course it will.”
“The Continued Fight over Farming the Oceans.” In this deeply-reported essay, Lisa Held describes the ongoing debates regarding deep water fish farms. Are they ”factory farms in water,” or can they be sources of sustainable seafood?
“When the Timeline Becomes Our Sidewalk.” L.M. Sacasas reflects on Jane Jacobs, sidewalks, and front porches: ”Civic virtues, as it turns out, do not spring up out of nowhere. All virtues and vices arise from habits engendered by practices, which, in turn, reflect the material infrastructure of our social lives. Right now it seems as if that infrastructure is increasingly calibrated to undermine the possibility of civic friendship.”
“Times Change.” Reeves Wiedeman has an in-depth essay on how the New York Times has profited immensely from the Trump era, but hasn’t figured out how to be both the paper of record and the paper of the Trump resistance: “The Timesian impulse toward some kind of objectivity ignored the fact that the view from nowhere was actually too often a view from the Upper West Side and Montclair, New Jersey.”
“How I Fell in Love with the Northern League.” Dan Jackson’s paean to this local English football league sounds a lot like Bill Kauffman writing about minor league baseball. (Recommended by Simon Kennedy.)
“Larkspur Press Makes Books the Old-Fashioned Way, One Letter at a Time.” Marvin Bartlett produces a brief video profile of the remarkable craftsman Gray Zeitz, who has published many books by Berry and other Kentucky authors.