Calling Out Thomas Frank

DR Tucker does progressivism a great service in calling out Thomas Frank.

Frank is the author of What’s the Matter with Kansas? as well as the founder of The Baffler. He has made a career out of blasting the kind of Democratic Party that emerged post-1968 in which liberals profess concern for rights, cultural issues, and the environment, but stop far short of calling for true economic equality. Frank wrote a piece for The Guardian recently in which he claimed the neoliberal order that emerged after George McGovern got stomped is the seedbed for Donald Trump’s species of nationalism. Frank wrote:

We cannot admit that we liberals bear some of the blame for its emergence, for the frustration of the working-class millions, for their blighted cities and their downward spiraling lives. So much easier to scold them for their twisted racist souls, to close our eyes to the obvious reality of which Trumpism is just a crude and ugly expression: that neoliberalism has well and truly failed.

DR Tucker was having none of it. Fact is, he said, there are a lot of racists out there who are attracted to Trump’s message. Class has nothing to do with it.

Trump’s crazed cheerleaders would be supporting malevolence against Mexicans and Muslims even in times of abundant prosperity. Was Pat Buchanan primarily tapping into “economic anxiety” in his second run for the Presidency twenty years ago, during the thriving Clinton years? Of course not—he was tapping into the same raw racism and pathetic prejudice that powered his first White House campaign in 1992.

I think DR does progressivism a great service, because Frank’s way of thinking has become dominant among a certain faction of white progressive that is deeply informed by socialism but not in thrall to it. This kind of progressive tends to focus on money and class as first principles, believing that racism is symptomatic of an underlying problem. Trump is a natural consequence of exploitation and wealth extraction, Frank believes, and elite liberals are complicit. The problem is that Frank’s argument rests on the assumption that race and class can be disentangled. DR, who is black, and a former Republican, is naturally skeptical of that claim.

Democrats bear no responsibility for the strength of the Trump campaign. Progressives bear no responsibility for the strength of the Trump campaign. Hate bears all responsibility for the strength of the Trump campaign—and Frank’s failure to fully acknowledge that reality is morally irresponsible.

Indeed, if Frank’s claim is correct, that the ugliness of Trumpism is the consequence of blind economic forces rather than all-too-human bigotry, how do we explain the booming post-war years in the United States, in which wealth and prosperity were widely distributed but white supremacy nakedly evident?

But I think there’s another reason Frank is wrong. And in underscoring this reason, I invite all manner of criticism, especially the charge of elitism. Frank and other white progressives informed by socialism but not in thrall to it have a problem. They possess an abundant populist faith in the power of the people.

The people are, of course, the true sovereign in a representative democracy. The people are central to our principles, republican form of government, and ability to hold accountable those in power. But “the people” do little that’s progressive.

Progress has nearly always come from a dedicated minority with limited resources pursuing a narrowly defined agenda. Take abolition, women’s suffrage, civil rights, labor rights, gay rights. The winners of these battles were elites in their respective worlds determined to work within an existing political order.

Frank and others pine for the day when America witnesses a genuine working class revolt that blows up the system. That’s great, but then what? Oh, the people will figure it out. And it seems they have.

They figured out they like Trump.

For Republicans, the Senate may be the price for SCOTUS blockade

The Hill reported yesterday that seven Republican senators are willing to meet with Merrick Garland, President Obama’s pick to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Until then, Senate Republicans have presented a united front in refusing to consider anyone Obama brought forth. Some no doubt might think that this signals mediating circumstances to come. A crack in the facade, as it were, might foreshadow GOP acquiescence down the road.

That’s premature. Scalia’s death presented the GOP leadership with two bad options.

One, hold hearings and confirm a middle-of-the-road nominee like Garland on the merits, thus altering the political composition of the high court for years. Two, hold hearings and reject a middle-of-the-road nominee like Garland on the merits, thus sparking a tide that might put Hillary Clinton in the White House. Confirmation hearings take up so much media bandwidth that confirming or rejecting someone on the merits is bad all around. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell isn’t stupid. His decision to reveal his hand within hours of Scalia’s death was rational and shrewd.

That may be just the beginning of the Republicans’ defensive plan. We may yet see how shrewd McConnell can be. The seven senators who signaled their willingness to meet with Garland are heading into tough fights in November. Before Scalia’s death, the Democrats were optimistic they could take a few Senate seats. After Scalia’s death, and after McConnell’s announcement that there would be no hearings for nominees, the Democrats are feeling greater optimism.

Indeed, that optimism comes in part because the Republicans have only one line of defense, literally one: that the American people ought to have a say in determining the next Supreme Court justice. As Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald noted, the Democrats have a far better response. He writes:

 

  • the move is unprecedented;
  • the people already had a voice when they re-elected Obama;
  • presidents have had nominees confirmed in election years throughout American history;
  • the Republicans are refusing to do their job;
  • they are sacrificing government to politics;
  • they are crippling the court through at least 2017;
  • they are continuing their attempts to block Obama’s judicial selections with laughable excuses (such as when they fought to shrink the size of a major federal appeals court by suddenly declaring it was too big after a vacancy opened up);
  • they sacrifice government to politics, and cannot be trusted.

This latest news suggests that the Republicans are hoping to minimize some of the fallout without expecting much in their favor i n November. It may be a bit cold-blooded to say but losing the Senate isn’t worth as much as losing the Supreme Court. And it’s certainly not worth as much as losing the presidency. It’s not a small price, of course, but that may be the <em>only</em> price.

And even then it might not matter. Senator Jeff Flake and Orrin Hatch, who sit on the Senate Judicial Committee, said today that if the Republicans lose the White House, Senate Republicans would have to consider confirming Garland in a lame duck session of Congress.

 

 

Violence In Baltimore Wasn’t ‘Counterproductive’

It’s a question that enrages conservatives and discomfits liberals: Is there utility to violence? More specifically, did violence have any impact on the surprise announcement last week of homicide charges brought against the six Baltimore cops involved in the death of Freddie Gray?

In wondering if on rare occasions violence can be useful, I’m transgressing an unwritten rule. Among conservatives, I risk appearing to defend criminals. Among liberals, I risk giving fodder to conservatives who are (always already) poised to attack grassroots challenges to state power.

But instead of counteracting the inevitable backlash, liberals tend to repudiate violence entirely, as if all violence were the same — all senseless, random, worthy of condemnation, and never to be confused with legitimate political protest. In this sense, President Barack Obama last week was a textbook liberal in forcefully commenting on the Baltimore riots:

“There’s no excuse for the kind of violence we saw yesterday. It is counterproductive. When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting. They’re not making a statement. They’re stealing … they need to be treated as criminals.”

It was a shrewd parsing. In attempting to separate criminality from the constitutional guarantee of the right to petition the government, Obama made room for local activist claims of widespread abuse of police power, especially the practice of “bouncing” or “nickel rides.”

Baltimore police are said to retaliate against suspects who flee, or otherwise inconvenience them, by handcuffing and then “bouncing” them in the back of police vans. The practice can cause serious injury. It is the most likely explanation for the severing of Freddie Gray’s spine.

Such police aggression is rooted in the so-called zero-tolerance policies of the 1990s. These were based on the theory that tolerance of petty crimes, such as public drunkenness, had the effect of establishing norms of criminality. That is, tolerance of little things like broken windows prefaced larger, more serious crimes.

The theory that rationalized this escalation of police power — called the “broken windows theory” — was advanced in 1982 by conservative scholars George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson. Their thinking was based on psychology more than empirical data. Social scientists have since seen crime rates fall for two decades, with little or no consensus among researchers on the role of zero-tolerance on that decline.

Wilson continued in 1994 when he wrote an article called “Just Take Away Their Guns.” In it, he advised police to maximize the court precedent of “reasonable suspicion” to stop and frisk anyone believed to be carrying an illegal weapon. Wilson’s larger point is by now familiar: Don’t punish law-abiding citizens with gun-control legislation. Punish criminals instead.

“Young black and Hispanic men will probably be stopped more often than older white Anglo males or women of any race,” Wilson wrote in The New York Times Magazine. “But if we are serious … we must get illegal guns off the street.”

Let’s put this in the context of the “senseless” and “counterproductive” violence of Baltimore. Not all violence is the same. There is the legitimate kind. As a nation-state, we authorize police officers to use violence when necessary. (Indeed, we don’t typically call it “violence;” we tend to use the softer “force.”) Put another way, the state has a monopoly on violence. Those who defy that monopoly commit the other kind of violence, the illegitimate kind. This we attribute to criminals, to offenders of the state.

But there may be a middle ground between legitimate and illegitimate violence, and that middle ground might be called political violence: violence that’s illegitimate but rooted in the legitimate desire to petition the state for redress of grievances. In this case, these are grievances among minority residents of Baltimore that go back to the 1990s when the city was swept up in a nationwide movement to “reasonably suspect” most young black men of being criminals.

For several days in a row, the city of Baltimore saw peaceful protests, thousands strong, over the death of Freddie Gray, but the state — meaning the city, state, and national governments — was mostly indifferent. That indifference ended when someone decided to burn a building to the ground. Though it’s impossible to say the riots influenced Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s decision to prosecute, it’s also unlikely that they didn’t, given how rare it is to see prosecutors bring homicide charges against cops.

President Obama is right. Those people are arsonists, looters, and petty thieves. They should and probably will be held accountable. But he’s wrong in saying the violence was senseless or counterproductive. Violence has always played a role in American history, in frightening established powers to reform a legal and political system that isn’t working.

Republican president Herbert Hoover once said America learned from the depravities of the 19th century. “Social injustice is the destruction of justice,” he wrote. But that lesson came after long periods of political violence, after the victim of injustice “throws bricks at our social edifice.”

[Cross-posted at National Memo and Washington Monthly]

Republicans Don’t Really Care About Inequality

They just know they can’t appear not to care

The Republican Party appears to accept that poverty and the inequities of wealth and political piwer that have prevailed over the last 15 years are issues it can no longer ignore. Not without paying a price. After all, Mitt Romney’s cool indifference to the everyday struggles of working Americans went a long way toward sinking his 2012 campaign.

But expressing concern about inequality is one thing. Doing something about it is another. The GOP so far appears more worried about its reputation as being the party of the very, very rich, not so much the empirical reality of its being the party of the very, very rich.

At a recent Republican gathering, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas gave voice to the party’s incongruity of perception and reality. “I think Republicans are and should be the party of the 47 percent,” he said. Later at that same event, the Koch Brothers Trust—the political network of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch—announced plans to spend nearly $1 billion in the next race for the White House, virtually all of it going to the Republican Party’s nominee.

If the GOP were truly troubled by historic rates of income and wealth inequality, it would rubber-stamp President Barack Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy and use the proceeds to fund infrastructure projects—roads, bridges, waterways, sewer systems. Public investments like these have historically garnered broad support, because they are neutral vehicles for achieving the goals of statecraft. Not only would such expenditures create hundreds of thousands of seasonal jobs, as well as many thousands of permanent jobs, and stimulate economic activity on a national scale. And they’d pay for themselves over time.

The president’s $4 trillion fiscal budget would tap into offshore accounts and Wall Street transactions that only the very, very rich possess and thus care about. In addition to public works, which Obama has been calling for since his took office, increased revenues would be used for free community college and universal child care.

This, or something like it, is what serious people talk about if they are serious about combating inequality. Progressive redistribution, however bitter-tasting the phrase may be, must be on the table. But all we are likely to hear, especially from Republicans aiming high, are platitudes steeped in conservative morality, homilies to the power of private enterprise freed from the bonds of bureaucratic red tape, or the benefits of cutting taxes. Really. Anything. Anything at all to avoid tax hikes even on the treasonous few who hide their money offshore.

All one needs to do to see the difference between what Republicans are saying and Republicans are doing is look at the current session of Congress. The very first item on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s to-do list was passing a bill authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. That project would indeed create thousands of seasonal jobs but only about 40 permanent ones. It would have virtually no impact on the U.S. economy. Moreover, the public would get nothing in return, unless you count greater levels of global warming.

That’s not to mention other items being pushed having nothing to do with serving the greater good. A short list: House Republicans have introduced legislation to restrict abortion (the melodramatically titled “fetal-pain bill”), on dismantle part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, and on starve to death the president’s modest executive action on illegal immigration.

Even if the Republicans really did believe, as Jeb Bush is trying to convince us, that addressing inequality is the right thing to do, don’t bet on any action. Doing the right thing had rarely been an incentive, because this is a party now committed to total warfare against Obama and the Democratic agenda. The only way the Republicans will take action on inequality is if they are forced to, but even then, they’ll likely do everything short of raising taxes on the very, very rich.

That’s why we should keep our eyes on minimum wage and paid sick leave. House Speaker John Boehner has said he’d rather kill himself than raise the minimum wage. Conservatives are poised to attack Republicans entertaining mandated sick days. But in terms of inequality, these are the easiest way to say you’ve done something without raising taxes on the very, very rich.

So yes, inequality is emerging as a major issue in the 2016 presidential race, and Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and others are going to try hard to convince us that the Republican Party cares, really cares, about the plight of the poor and an ever-shrinking middle class. But remember the last time a major candidate talked about such “compassionate conservatism.” By the end of his second term, the greatest beneficiaries of that compassion were the very, very rich.

[Cross-posted at Ten Miles Square]

Vaccine Debate Shows That Freedom is Good Governance

Senator Rand Paul and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie must feel like they’ve been thrown under the bus. They were just doing what every red-blooded Republican would have done.

In saying parents should have the right to choose whether their kids are vaccinated for measles and other preventable illnesses, as Christie did, and in saying state-mandated immunizations have been categorically linked to mental illness, as Paul did, the (unofficial) presidential hopefuls were merely following the GOP playbook. They were teaching the controversy.

Teaching the what? It’s easy. They were taking something politically neutral, like vaccinations to stop communicable diseases, and fabricating another side. Then they took the “side” of the “debate” that most reflects the values of voters they are courting.

Another thing they were doing that every Republican does, especially if they are gunning for the White House, was finding the freedom angle to something that’s long been settled politically. That’s easy too. Take any kind of law or policy that impacts personal behavior and suggest, or even claim outright, that such requirements could infringe on individual liberty.

In Christie’s case, he was suggesting parents are oppressed by state laws requiring children to be vaccinated. They need freedom from the regulatory state. In Paul’s case, he was tapping into the vast, murky and truth-defying realm of conspiracy theory. If the government wants you to do something, there must be a host of conspiratorial forces behind it. “The state doesn’t own your children,” Paul said. Conclusion: Freedom equals the absence of government.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, Paul and Christie find themselves on the outside looking in. On Tuesday, Republican House Speaker John Boehner said every child should be vaccinated. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who once contracted polio, said he was grateful for vaccinations. And Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly said, with no small amount of passion, that vaccinations should be federally mandated: “Some things do require Big Brother.”

These same strategies work so very well when the subject of conversation is climate change, gun violence or food stamps. Now Paul and Christie have lost even Fox News.

What happened?

Apologists will say both went too far in their hunger for a voter base and that Republican leadership had to step in and bring them back in line. Right now that’s especially important to party bosses, as they are trying to convince anyone listening that they can govern.

The most likely answer is simpler.

Unlike an environmental cataclysm, out-of-control firearm distribution and bureaucratized transfer payments, contagious diseases aren’t abstract. More importantly, they are concrete to a majority of white affluent senior-citizen suburbanites who make up the GOP’s base of power.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi accused Paul and Christie of being anti-science and anti-governance. That’s totally true and totally irrelevant. Science and governance never won the presidency for any Republican. Ever. What does matter, however, is what propertied and privileged Republicans say, and what they said was “what the hell are you doing?”

Such rare disunity presents an opportunity for Democrats to cut into the GOP’s base. Nancy Pelosi already took the first step by appealing to Republicans who are educated, informed and approving of good governance, especially when it comes to issues of public health.

This opportunity is ideological as much as it is tactical. It’s also historical.

Freedom from big government made a kind of sense 35 years ago when taxation was high, inflation was high and the marketplace was highly regulated. So-called Reaganomics was once “voodoo economics,” said George H.W. Bush. Now it’s orthodoxy. Movement conservatism won.

But times change.

We are now at another impasse in which orthodox methods is making matters worse. Yet conservatives still believe the solution is attacking big government. Consider this from North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis, who seriously suggested a way to achieve greater economic growth is to get rid of laws requiring food-service employees to wash their hands after using the restroom.

“I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says we don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom,” Tillis said with earnest. “The market will take care of that.”

Some ideologies are historically contingent. They once mattered for reasons peculiar to their time and place. But it’s not enough for national Democrats to permit movement conservatism to rot on the vine. They have to replace it with a credible and productive alternative.

Perhaps more importantly, they have to replace the old meaning of freedom with a new one.

With the worst outbreak of measles in the last 15 years, a disease once thought to have been eradicated by vaccines, it’s hard to imagine a better time to claim a meaning.

Freedom is good governance.

[Cross-posted at Ten Miles Square]

A Liberal Romney Coulda Been a Contender

It’s too bad Mitt Romney decided against running in 2016. If the Republican Party were smarter, it would run him.

(Maybe.)

I say this as someone who wrote reams of copy about his 2012 campaign, much of it critical, much of it antagonistic. But if Romney’s public statements in the days since he floated the idea of running a third time are any indication, he would have run as a liberal Republican, which is to say, like himself.

Another way of putting it: he’d run like his dad.

George Romney was a civil-rights warrior so committed to the principles of equality enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that, as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, he threatened to nix federal funding for a Detroit suburb that resisted efforts to integrate housing.

“The youth of this nation, the minorities of this nation, the discriminated of this nation are not going to wait for ‘nature to take its course,'” Romney is reported to have said. “What is really at issue here is responsibility—moral responsibility.”

The policies Romney pursued were sometimes politically dicey for President Richard Nixon, who neither shared Romney’s views on race nor was willing to risk support among Northern white suburban voters in the name of moral principle.

One scholar wrote that Romney “came surprisingly close to imple­menting unpopular anti-discrimination policies,” but failed in large part because of Nixon’s commitment to electoral race-baiting and indebtedness to the South. Shortly after Nixon won reelection in 1972, Romney resigned.

In a way, you could say (a la Ronald Reagan), that George Romney didn’t leave the Republican Party. The party left him.

When his son first considered having third go at the GOP presidential primary, he sounded surprisingly liberal with comments on climate change, poverty and public education. Specifically, that global warming is anthropogenic; that poverty is something government can do something about; that public-school teachers should be adequately paid.

I don’t want to make too much of this. After all, Mitt Romney turned lying into an art form in 2012. I don’t think anyone can say for sure what he really believes. But recent public statements are a kind of return to form. As Massachusetts governor, he was an ideological moderate who also supported abortion rights, gun-control laws and gay marriage.

Even David Corn was impressed.

You’ll recall that David Corn, a reporter for Mother Jones magazine, revealed for the first time that Romney had said, in private, that he could write off 47 percent of voters, because they are dependent on free handouts. Corn can credibly claim he mortally wounded Romney’s campaign.

“Yet in public remarks, Romney has been sounding like a born-again lefty,” Corn wrote approvingly. “Liberals across the land ought not scoff at the remodeled Romney. They should encourage him to return to the political battlefield.”

Well, now we know he won’t.

I suspect Romney thought he had a chance a third time, because Jeb Bush said he’s considering a run. The Bush brand is by no means a shoo-in, given the legacy of George W. Bush. Conservatives still chafe at the memory of his years in the White House when federal deficits didn’t matter, nation-building in Iraq was paramount, and friends-of-Bush were lining up at the trough. From Romney’s point of view, if another Bush can win conservatives, why couldn’t he?

The reason is there can be only one. Conservatives like Ted Cruz are a dime a dozen. They litter the candidate field and weaken its overall impact. There are only so many men in the party with establishment heft. Once Jeb Bush made his move, the entire GOP constellation started moving with him, like satellites being pulled along by the gravity of drifting planets.

I’m being coy when I say the Republican Party should run Romney, but only half coy. Even during the 2012 primary, I thought he would be a good antidote to the Southernization of the Republican Party and its long journey toward being a regional party without hope of achieving national objectives.

That’s probably overstating things a bit, but it’s not without a basis. In 1960, the Republicans dreamed of taking the South away from the Democrats. They were eager to abandon the party’s founding principles in favor of a political majority.

Well, they got it. And the result is a national reputation for being at odds with the course of American history. A Romney who stood firmly on the liberal Republican ideals of his father might have helped correct that course. Now, we’ll never know.

[Cross-posted at Ten Miles Square]

Charles Blow’s Son

For Charles Blow, the recent deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice meant that black parents should talk to their children, especially sons, about the realities of police power. That lesson was affirmed last weekend when the New York Times columnist’s own son, an undergraduate at Yale, was mistaken for a burglary suspect.

With sidearm drawn, a university police officer forced Tahj Blow to the ground. He complied and did not panic under duress, as he was taught to do by his father, who wrote in a Monday column in the Times: “I was exceedingly happy I had talked to him.”

And yet: “I am reminded of what I have always known, but what some would choose to deny: that there is no way to work your way out—earn your way out—of this sort of crisis. In these moments, what you’ve done matters less than how you look.”

Tahj Blow is fortunately okay and the real suspect has been apprehended. Unfortunately, those who insist there is nothing wrong with modern policing may end up looking to his experience for evidence that nothing is wrong. In a campus-wide email on Monday, Yale President Peter Salovey, along with Yale’s dean and chief of police, made public for the first time the race of the officer who trained his gun on Tahj Blow. He was black.

Blow has since argued on Twitter that a cop’s race is irrelevant to a critique of endemic racism in police departments. He said he hadn’t mentioned the cop’s race either in columns about Brown, Garner or Rice. “This isn’t about individuals on the trigger end of the guns but the culture and how that culture interacts with communities of color.”

I think Blow is right, and wrong.

He’s wrong in that the contours of the national movement against the social, economic and political forces that permit white police officers to shoot black Americans without fear of indictment are sketched in black and white. That is obvious and beyond doubt.

Why didn’t he note the officer’s race? Perhaps having a firearm pointed at your son is too much for any father. Perhaps his son was too shaken to recount that detail. What I do know is Blow isn’t just any dad. He’s among a handful of liberal voices bringing wide attention to shameful inequities of law enforcement. Blow understands more than most that a cop’s race would be instrumental in the maintenance of white denial.

A day later, a writer for Breitbart, a popular reactionary opinion site, attacked Blow for that very omission. John Nolte suggested Blow was guilty of racial profiling, of all things, and placed him among “prominent Leftists caught red-handed hurling false accusations of racism.” He said “injecting race into this story by either covering up the facts or before knowing all the facts is irresponsible and unconscionable.”

Yale also hinted, with none of Nolte’s bombast, that the cop’s race meant this wasn’t “a replay of what happened in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, or so many other places in our time and over time in the United States.” Yale’s president, dean and police chief said: “The officer, who himself is African American, was responding to a specific description relayed by individuals who had reported a crime in progress.”

Does this mean Blow was wrong to put the episode in a political context?

No, but for reasons he might quibble with.

The problem, I suspect, isn’t so much police culture, because police culture may be symptomatic. The forces that constitute a context in which even a privileged black student at an elite university can be mistaken for a petty criminal probably stem from the very notion of what law enforcement is supposed to be. The present is a product of the past, and historically law enforcement has by and large not served human rights. It has instead served the rights of property.

In a recent article, constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled in favor of money and power. Over 227 years, Chemerinsky writes, it has enforced slavery and Jim Crow; invalidated hundreds of statutes protecting workers and consumers; struck down voting rights laws; and looked aside while lives were ruined in the name of patriotism. In sum, Chemerinsky writes, it “is far more likely to rule in favor of corporations than workers or consumers; it is far more likely to uphold abuses of government power than to stop them.”

If, as Chemerinsky argues, the Supreme Court has time and again failed to protect minority rights, why would we expect more from cops, white or black? Put another way, the privileging of money and power over human rights is not a bug. It is a feature of our entire legal system. To be black or poor or female—these are inherent disadvantages that may never be overcome in a society in thrall to money and power.

To many of us, this is beyond obvious. The question is what to do. To that end, I suggest that change, when it comes, often does so incrementally and it springs from necessity. Charles Blow’s advice to African-American parents—that they talk to their children, especially their sons, about the realities of police power—is a clear-cut necessity. It has the potential, as was the case with his son, to be life-preserving.

But it’s also subversive. Along with a national protest movement, it says established forms of political power are not to be entirely trusted, that they need reform and that individuals can take action. If politics is the power to shape reality, this is power.

[Cross-posted at Ten Miles Square]