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The Atlantic
The Atlantic
‘I Don’t Know That I Would Even Call It Meth Anymore’
Different chemically than it was a decade ago, the drug is creating a wave of severe mental illness and worsening America’s homelessness problem.
4 h
theatlantic.com
China’s American Surveillance State
With generous state support at home and low-cost sales abroad, Hikvision has become a world heavyweight.
5 h
theatlantic.com
How Democrats Gave Away Their Power
Democrats wanted to play fair, and they tried to lead by example. In the decade-long battle over who gets to draw the districts that determine control of Congress, the party even relinquished some of its power in the name of good government. Now Democrats are discovering the potential cost of that attempt at high-mindedness: their House majority and, perhaps, the presidency.To rid the country of partisan gerrymandering, Democrats for years joined with election reformers to take the responsibility for redistricting away from politicians and hand it to independent, nonpartisan commissions. The effort did not begin as an entirely altruistic project; both parties gerrymandered where they could, but Democrats had more to gain by scrapping the practice. They won the argument in a number of places: Voters in states including California, Colorado, Arizona, Michigan, and Virginia have approved redistricting commissions over the past 15 years, protecting more than one in five congressional seats from the threat of extreme gerrymandering.Republicans, to a large degree, declined to go along. They refused to cede control of the redistricting process in the biggest red states (such as Texas) and fought commissions that could have cost them seats (Arizona) all the way to the Supreme Court. In Congress this year, they blocked legislation that would have created nonpartisan commissions across the country. The GOP’s reward for its defense of gerrymandering is a national map tilted further in its favor than it would have been if the Democratic push for independent commissions had flopped on its face.The stakes for the reapportionment that follows the decennial census are always enormous; the redistricting process draws lines for Congress and state legislatures that endure for a decade. But the consequences over the next few years could stretch far beyond the fate of President Joe Biden’s agenda or whether a particular state’s taxes go up or down: Given former President Donald Trump’s continued dominance over the GOP and the possibility that he will run again, whichever party controls the House and key state legislative chambers could determine the next presidential election. That stark reality is giving the Democrats who championed nonpartisan commissions second thoughts. “As a matter of policy, I think we should pursue these, because I think it’s the right thing to do,” Morgan Carroll, the chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, told me. “But as a matter of politics, if across the country every Dem is for independent commissions and every Republican is aggressively gerrymandering maps, then the outcome is still a Republican takeover of the United States of America with a modern Republican Party that is fundamentally authoritarian and antidemocratic. And that’s not good for the country.”Democrats have not abandoned gerrymandering everywhere. In large blue states such as New York, Illinois, and Maryland, the party is expected to draw maps that maximize its partisan advantage. But Republicans control the redistricting process governing more seats, and given the Democrats’ narrow House majority, the GOP could take back power through gerrymandering alone. By giving up their mapping pens in just a few states, Democrats might also have given away their gavel.[Read: Why Democrats might need to play dirty to win]No state illustrates the Democrats’ predicament better than Colorado, where the party holds the governorship and solid control of the legislature. That power could have allowed Democrats to draw a favorable new congressional seat, shore up their four House incumbents, and target the reelection bid of freshman GOP Representative Lauren Boebert, who supported Trump’s bid to overturn last year’s election. In 2018, however, Democrats backed a ballot initiative to hand power over congressional redistricting to a nonpartisan commission. The map that the panel has proposed would instead make the new Eighth District north of Denver a toss-up, potentially jeopardize at least one of the Democratic incumbents, and ease Boebert’s path to another term, Carroll told me. The difference between the commission map and what Democrats might have drawn themselves could be nearly enough to tip the balance of power in the entire House. “It is a problem,” a high-ranking Colorado Democrat told me, speaking on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment.In Virginia, Democratic leaders initially supported the creation of a nonpartisan redistricting commission, but they reversed course once the party won control of both chambers of the legislature in 2019. Voters, however, overruled them in 2020, backing the commission by wide margins in a constitutional amendment on the ballot. The commission has whiffed so far: Its members announced last week that they could not agree on a state legislative map and kicked the job up to the Virginia Supreme Court instead. A similar failure is possible when the panel turns to the congressional map, and the right-leaning court is unlikely to draw lines as favorable to Democrats as they would have drawn themselves without a commission.Democrats do stand to benefit from some of the redistricting panels. In Arizona, which is now closely divided between the parties, the map that the independent commission produces is likely to be far more fair than lines drawn by the state’s Republican legislature. The story in Michigan is more complicated. A nonpartisan commission is drawing maps there for the first time, and an analysis of its proposed state legislative districts found that they skew toward the GOP. “It’s been frustrating to watch,” the state’s Democratic Party chair, Lavora Barnes, told me. “Right now, my fear is that we do not end up with fair maps.” Yet Barnes said the commission is still far preferable to letting the Republican-controlled legislature run the process as it did in the past. “It would definitely be worse,” she said. “I would obviously happily accept maps that are more Democratic than they are, but I think fair is a much better bargain for us than where we are and where we would have been if the Republicans had been drawing these maps.”The Democratic quandary over redistricting commissions puts lawmakers like Representative John Sarbanes of Maryland in a tricky position. As the chair of the party’s Democracy Reform Task Force in the House, Sarbanes helped write the For the People Act, which requires states to establish independent redistricting commissions. But Sarbanes is in no rush for his home state to lead the way. Maryland is one of the most notoriously gerrymandered states in the country. A judge once described Sarbanes’s own district as “reminiscent of a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state.” A federal court threw out its Democrat-drawn map before the Supreme Court upheld the lines in a 2019 ruling. Redistricting commissions are truly fair, Sarbanes told me, only if every state has to use them. “I’ve pushed for a national solution from day one,” he said. (When I asked whether he agreed that Maryland’s current districts were gerrymandered, however, he dodged. “Maryland’s got a strange shape to begin with. You’re not going to end up with pretty maps,” Sarbanes replied. “But clearly Maryland is a Democratic state, and there’s always politics that are mixed in.”)Another leader in the Democratic push for election reform, Representative Zoe Lofgren of California, once shared Sarbanes’s view. She initially opposed the creation of an independent redistricting commission when it came up as a statewide referendum in 2008. “My theory was why should California, which has a Democratic majority, cede this authority to a nonpartisan commission when other states haven’t done it?” Lofgren told me. But after Democrats picked up seats in the California delegation even after the commission drew its first maps, Lofgren changed her mind. “I have to say the voters were right and I was wrong,” she conceded. “This does work much better.”Along with Colorado, California now serves both as the model for the kind of redistricting commissions Democrats want to establish nationwide and as an impediment to their hopes of retaining power long enough to do so. The party controls 42 out of the state’s 53 seats in Congress—easily the biggest Democratic delegation in the country—but an aggressive Democratic gerrymander probably could have yielded a few more.In Washington, Democrats removed the proposal to require redistricting commissions from the latest version of their election-reform bill, as part of an effort to narrow the measure and win the support of Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Lawmakers and advocates say the decision was about timing—commissions couldn’t be set up before 2022 in states that didn’t already have them—and not a reconsideration of the idea. “Democrats did not make a mistake,” says Kelly Burton, the president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the group formed by former Attorney General Eric Holder to fight gerrymandering by Republicans. “By putting commissions in place, Democrats are saying, ‘We’re not afraid of voters, and we’re not afraid of a fair process, and we don’t need to cheat to win.’”Most of the Democrats I spoke with agreed with Burton—at least in principle. They hoped that voters would, as Sarbanes told me, reward the party that stood up for good government and put aside partisan politics. But the new maps stand for a decade, and as these Democrats considered the enormous ramifications of the next two national elections, doubt about its consequences began to creep back in. “If the result is that we have 10 years of Republican majorities under this current party,” Carroll said, “then I think the institution of Congress is dead.”
6 h
theatlantic.com
The Comfortable Crises of HBO’s Succession
As Season 3 of Succession begins, the mighty Logan Roy (played by Brian Cox) is in the crosshairs. His son Kendall (Jeremy Strong) has exposed the family patriarch’s involvement in covering up a litany of scandals at their company, Waystar Royco, calling him “a malignant presence, a bully, and a liar.” The impulsive decision could be fatal for the media conglomerate, potentially attracting the attention of the government and affecting every employee. Thousands of jobs are on the line, and the future of news in Succession’s America is at stake.Yet to the inner circle around Logan, such a predicament can be compared, of all things, to ice cream. “This is the full Baskin-Robbins—31 flavors of fuck,” one subordinate hisses to another while speculating about their boss’s chances. What’s happening to Logan may be worrisome to his closest lackeys, but not terrifying enough to prevent them from delivering the satire’s signature serious-silly dialogue. After all, they’re chatting while seated on one of Logan’s private jets, soaring above and away from the fallout.[Read: The best show on TV is stuck]During tonight’s premiere of the hit HBO series, the Roys and their attendants experience their crisis in comfort. Kendall, after betraying his father, gathers himself in a marbled hotel bathroom fit for a spa day, not Judgment Day. Logan, spooked but not helpless, asks for a list of locations without extradition treaties with the U.S. and settles on Sarajevo—a pointed choice for the start of a corporate war, to be sure, but also one that offers accommodations at a five-star hotel. The other Roys pinball around the world, jetting off to Waystar Royco’s various headquarters in private planes, diligently chartered by Hugo (Fisher Stevens).From Dynasty to Big Little Lies, TV has long ogled how the wealthy suffer misfortune in luxury, aboard yachts and inside elegant residences, in scenes that “come off as a little too self-satisfied,” my colleague Hannah Giorgis pointed out while writing about HBO’s The Undoing. “No matter how unpleasant their circumstances, the show reminds us at every turn, these characters still lead enviable lives.”[Read: On TV, having wealth means you get to suffer beautifully]Succession is subtly different. The wealth on display—glass-walled corner offices, grayscale hotel suites—is insulation that appears expensive, but not cozy. Their rich surroundings look cold, bleak, and sterile. Money, for the Roys, manifests as a pristine double-edged weapon, lulling them into seeing their crisis as an opportunity and preventing them from grasping the larger implications of Waystar Royco’s scandal. It’s darkly funny to see Logan’s allies, during a meeting aboard the jet to discuss their next steps, perk up at the mention of him needing someone to play interim CEO, even though he makes it clear he’ll still be calling the shots. Never mind the sexual-assault allegations against a high-level executive, the company’s toxic workplace, or the plight of its employees. Getting a chance to be the puppet in charge is far more important, rendering everything else invisible.Even Kendall, the Roy calling himself “righteous” and insisting that he intends to “change the cultural climate,” is shielded by his wealth, which allows him access to a high-powered lawyer, a team of crisis-PR managers, and his ex-wife’s gorgeous apartment as a harbor in which to set up shop. Such affluence means he doesn’t have to engage with the public—and therefore doesn’t register the dire consequences of his actions or how phony he sounds. He doesn’t clock his ex-wife’s disdain and thinks he’s on the same page as his new hires, whom he pummels them with grandiose ideas, not about how to transform Waystar Royco’s practices, but about promoting his image. Early in the episode, he escapes the post-press-conference frenzy in a company car, safe from the outside world.At least, he is until Logan calls. On Succession, the family’s money protects them from the rest of society, but it does nothing to protect them from their own everlasting dysfunction and toxicity. Indeed, such seclusion knits them closer together, tightening their twisted codependent relationships and securing their ignorance. And the tragicomedy of Succession comes from the way these characters seem to relish that dynamic: The comfort they find in this crisis isn’t just about the five-star hotels and private planes. They’re also energized by the chaos that could help them accumulate more power. Kendall could have ignored his father’s call, but he picked up. Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) eschews the other tasks Logan assigns him, calling Shiv (Sarah Snook) from the bathroom of Logan’s jet to gossip with her about the CEO shake-up. Roman (Kieran Culkin), similarly unbothered by the bigger picture, pounces on the opportunity to taunt Shiv about losing the position, sinking into a king-size bed in his hotel suite as he does. Experiencing a crisis such as this, it seems, is a treat. One that’s available in 31 flavors.
theatlantic.com
I Learn to Shoot a Bow
A poem for Sunday
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theatlantic.com
Is Biden Doing Enough to Protect Democracy?
As a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer in the early 2000s, I once received a call from a couple of Republican campaign operatives who said they had something to show me. We met at their office in Washington, D.C., a few days later. They presented printouts of recent election records and pointed to a few cases of what they suspected were people voting illegally. One after another, their examples of voter fraud turned out to be nothing. They had flagged, for instance, a voter named John Smith who might have cast ballots on the same day in two different precincts­—discounting the possibility that more than one person named John Smith might be living in the region. Their motivation was obvious enough: They were attempting to plant stories that would delegitimize elections that the GOP risked losing. It didn’t work.With the rising bloc of younger, more diverse voters who skew left, Republican efforts like this in recent years have mushroomed into a full-blown campaign, undercutting the bedrock notion that American voters are the ones who decide elections. Whether GOP-controlled states are drawing new district lines that would disenfranchise Hispanic and Black voters for the next 10 years or “auditing” 2020 election results that have already shown that Donald Trump lost, the goal is the same: By any means necessary, win.Fiona Hill worked on Trump’s National Security Council and later provided compelling testimony in his first impeachment trial. I asked her if she feared for democracy's future should Trump win again. “We’re already there,” she told me. “I’m worried about it now. Millions of people are showing they don’t want any criticism of Trump. Democracy is becoming a dirty word, something that’s anti-Trump.”“These are direct assaults on the basic underpinnings of the democratic system,” Wendy Weiser, who directs the Brennan Center for Justice’s democracy program, told me. This year, 19 states have passed 33 laws creating obstacles to the most fundamental American right, part of a “multipronged effort to sabotage elections,” she added. As the 2022 midterm elections approach, and with the 2024 presidential election not far behind, Democrats believe that President Joe Biden needs to fiercely combat the illiberal forces at work this very second in the country. And those fearing the loss of a two-century tradition of self-government in America are asking, with a hint of desperation, Where is he?[Read: Why Biden is patient as Democrats panic]Certainly, Biden has been busy. He’s struggling to pass a historic multitrillion-dollar economic plan that he seems determined to make the centerpiece of his presidency. “I think the Biden administration’s more immediate priority is these infrastructure bills,” Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who serves on the select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, told me. “And I really think that [voting rights] need to be pursued with equal vigor. Efforts to interfere with election officials at the state level are foundational to a democracy. And if the foundation becomes infirm, the whole edifice comes crashing down.” What good is expanded broadband, after all, if it only helps an autocratic government spread democracy-destroying disinformation?When it comes to GOP attempts to subvert elections, Biden has at times been eloquent, and at other moments conspicuously silent. In July, he gave an impassioned speech in Philadelphia in which he shamed Republicans for not working to uphold “the sacred right to vote.” As my colleague Ronald Brownstein noted at the time, Biden didn’t mention the one step that’s absolutely necessary to protect voting rights: doing away with the Senate filibuster rule that is blocking passage of electoral reforms. In a recent speech, Biden found time to talk about renewable energy, tax credits, early-childhood education, climate change, the debt limit, and the growing number of Americans getting vaccinated. He touched on everything, it seemed, except voting rights. If the nation faces “the most dangerous threat to voting and the integrity of free and fair elections in our history,” as Biden warned in Philadelphia, isn’t that as worthy of a mention as plug-in charging stations?Ask the White House what it’s doing to defend voting rights and the stock reply is “Plenty.” One aide sent me a spreadsheet illustrating Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’s attention to the issue. (The breakdown showed nearly three dozen speeches, meetings, and events for Harris, and six for Biden.) Attorney General Merrick Garland has set up a criminal task force to crack down on intimidation of election employees, a growing problem. (In Georgia, a state that Biden narrowly won, an election worker was emptying trash from a warehouse one day when hecklers surrounded him and told he would be going to jail, Gabriel Sterling, an official in the Georgia secretary of state’s office, told me.) Even Biden’s allies worry that the progress is too slow. Is the president doing enough to spotlight the perilous state of American democracy? I asked Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat. “No, of course not,” he said.Gina Hinojosa was one of dozens of Democratic Texas legislators who left the state over the summer to deny Republicans the quorum needed to pass legislation restricting voting rights. Hinojosa and her colleagues flew to Washington, where they met twice with Harris to discuss the urgency of the issue. “The last time we passed historic voting-rights legislation, in 1965, we had a president from Texas, Lyndon Baines Johnson, who used his skills and the power of the presidency to make voting-rights legislation happen,” she told me. “And we need that same kind of assertiveness from our current president.”A new bill that Democrats have rallied behind, the Freedom to Vote Act, would beat back Republican attempts to manipulate elections for partisan purposes. It would set national voting standards that create a two-week early-voting period, make Election Day a public holiday, allow no-excuse voting by mail, and prevent the firing of election officials for political reasons. It also aims to prevent partisan gerrymandering, which some red states use to dilute the influence of minority voters. Biden has come out in favor of the bill, which is languishing in the Senate because of the filibuster rule.An important thing to note about the Freedom to Vote Act is that it carries the support of the two moderate Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have balked at the cost of Biden’s $3.5 trillion infrastructure package.That would give Senate Democrats a good shot at passing the measure—if it needed only a simple majority vote. But the filibuster rule calls for a 60-vote supermajority, and both Manchin and Sinema have so far refused to do away with it. Democrats have worked out an arrangement that gives Manchin time to find 10 Republican senators willing to support the bill and meet the filibuster’s high threshold for passage. “It’s never going to happen,” Representative Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat, told me. “He won’t get half of that. He won’t get half of half of that. If we find ourselves in an authoritarian state where there is no more freedom of speech, press, or worship, I don’t think people are going to say, ‘Well, at least we still have the filibuster.’” (Manchin’s office did not respond to a request for comment.)Democrats are understandably antsy. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is planning for members to vote on the bill as early as Wednesday. A delay would be costly: Republican-controlled legislatures are already coming out with redistricting maps that would lock in their majority status for the next decade. “I wish Senator Manchin the best in his effort to round up some Republican votes, but we cannot have infinite patience,” Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland told me. “The clock is ticking here. We’ve got to get these protections in place right away.” Practically, that looks unrealistic unless Manchin and Simena relent and agree either to nuke the filibuster or carve out a specific exception for voting rights. Biden could pressure the duo to do just that. But with his party holding a one-vote majority in the Senate, he would risk antagonizing two people he can’t afford to lose. When I asked a White House official if Biden supports lifting the filibuster to pass voting-rights protections, I got a tepid reply: “I don’t think we can rule out anything,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak on the record.[Read: America is not ready for Trump’s second term]Activists are growing more frustrated by the day. In July, Sister Quincy Howard and other faith leaders took part in a Zoom meeting on voting rights that included the senior White House adviser Cedric Richmond. She left feeling disheartened by the White House’s message, summarizing it as “‘We need all of you to help us get the word out that there’s a problem with voting rights.’ And I’m like, ‘What? We’re so far beyond that.’ It was jaw-dropping. The word is out!” Then, in August, Ben Jealous, the former president of the NAACP and now the head of the liberal group People for the American Way, sent a letter along with the League of Women Voters to Richmond warning that voting-rights legislation wouldn’t pass unless the filibuster rule is scrapped. They asked for a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and his deputy Bruce Reed, but got no reply. Feeling stymied, activists began holding demonstrations outside the White House.Earlier this month, both Howard and Jealous were arrested on Pennsylvania Avenue during a protest. A Secret Service agent took off Howard’s veil while detaining her for crossing a police line. I called the agency and asked why this step was necessary—did they believe there was a concealed weapon beneath the nun’s garments? A spokesperson told me that Howard and four others had refused to “disperse,” and that “during the course of any arrest, the Secret Service employs consistent, standardized arrest protocols for the safety and security of all involved.” Jealous said he was handcuffed for hours and spent the night in a jail cell with “the most aggressive roaches you’ve ever seen.”When I mentioned the alarm coming from activists, the White House official told me that the Biden administration is “pushing full force” to pass voting protections. “It’s fair for activists to continue to push,” the official said. “Every constituency has their issue. If you ask immigration folks, they’ll tell you their issue is a life-or-death issue too.” (Democracy’s preservation would seem more than a pet issue.) In one crucial respect, Biden has been holding back: He has yet to give a full-throated statement that Senate Democrats need to end the filibuster.Manchin may never find the 10 Republican votes needed to break a filibuster, but the exercise gives him political cover to tell West Virginians that at least he tried. Having shown that Republican resistance was unwavering, Manchin could then join the dozens of Democratic senators who see the filibuster as a tool for minority obstruction and perhaps persuade Sinema to do the same. “I don’t believe arcane Senate rules should be allowed to turn back the clock on something as fundamental as voting in America,” Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, told me.
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theatlantic.com
The Most Useful Kind of Rage
When we think of love, we recognize its varieties. Philia, brotherly love. Eros, romantic love. Agape, universal love. Conditional and unconditional love, requited and unrequited love, love for virtue and love for vice. Our awareness of these different kinds of love not only allows us to perceive its varied forms; it also gives us adequate information to approve or disapprove of a particular type. When we talk about anger, by contrast, we tend to paint it in broad strokes, generalizing it as though it were one destructive thing.[From the January/February 2019 issue: The real roots of American rage]But there are many kinds of anger. As a philosopher and an anti-racist scholar, I study anger through the lens of political injustice, and I have sorted political rage into five categories. The first four are at best unproductive and at worst dangerous, but the fifth variety can be useful and lead to positive change. “Rogue rage” is anger at injustice, although the target of the injustice is not necessarily the person or institution that caused it. A person with rogue rage blames almost everyone for his unjust experiences. The former neo-Nazi Christian Picciolini, who now works to fight extremism, was a rogue rager before he changed his ways. “Wipe rage” is felt by people who perceive injustice at the hands of a specific group or groups and aim to eliminate those people. Wipe ragers may experience economic hardship or they may feel ignored by a government that is supposed to represent and serve them. The alt-right protesters who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 with their anti-Semitic and anti-Black chants of “You will not replace us!”—voicing a belief that white people are on the verge of extinction—were expressing wipe rage. “Ressentiment rage” may sound strange at first, perhaps even redundant. (The French ressentiment can be translated as resentment, although its meaning in French more closely reflects my intent here.) Ressentiment rage is aimed at a racial group in power and is expressed by those without power. It is likely to be directed at all members of the powerful group—for example, an Indigenous person who is angry at all white people in America. People with ressentiment rage are reactive: They see themselves as subjects who are acted upon. “Narcissistic rage” is not my term; bell hooks coined the phrase in her 1995 book, Killing Rage. She cites Black elites as a group that sometimes has narcissistic rage, which arises from a sense of individual exceptionalism, not outrage at systemic injustice. Narcissistic ragers are angry because although they have worked hard and risen through the ranks—gaining much social capital and even acceptance by some white people—the oppressive powers refuse to make a distinction between them and other members of the oppressed group. This post is adapted from Cherry’s forthcoming book. These four types of rage can produce harmful effects in the world. They can obstruct racial justice and even perpetuate injustice. But there’s another kind of political rage that stands out from the rest. I call it “Lordean rage,” and it is our best hope.Lordean rage contrasts with the other types of rage in stark ways. I named it after the Black feminist scholar and poet Audre Lorde, based on my reading of her essays on anger and race. Lordean rage plays an important role in the anti-racist struggle and is not necessarily destructive.Lorde defines racism as “the belief in the inherent superiority of one race over all others and thereby the right to dominance, manifest and implied.” The targets of Lordean rage are those who are complicit in and perpetrators of racism and racial injustice. This type of anger is, for example, directed at racist actions, racist attitudes, and presumptions that arise out of those attitudes. These needn’t come from powerful, faraway forces. These attitudes and actions can (and often do) come from people who profess solidarity with the racially marginalized.The goal of Lordean rage is to absorb anger and use it for energy. As the title of Lorde’s influential essay “The Uses of Anger” suggests, anger has its benefits. Lordean rage is useful if it is focused with precision and translated into needed action. It is metabolized anger—“the virtuous channeling of the power and energy of anger without the desire to harm or pass pain,” writes the scholar Emily McRae. It is a call to “fight injustice and respect the reality of one’s anger without being destroyed by it.”I have always wondered what made freedom fighters like Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells, both born as slaves, stand up to oppressive racist and sexist systems. As Black women they were doubly oppressed, but were not afraid to speak truth to power. What accounts for this audacity? A belief in justice, no doubt, and confidence in themselves, and a sense of optimism that they would be able to succeed despite the risks and ​​challenges they faced. But they also channeled Lordean rage. As did Martin Luther King Jr., who, while locked up in Alabama in 1963, responded to his critics and unjust arrest with productive anger, writing his famous “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” The perspective that informs Lordean rage is, as Lorde put it: “I am not free while any [other] is unfree.” Freedom is not exclusive. It is inclusive. Those who share this view embrace the unfree whose “shackles are different from our own,” not just selected members of a particular group. Lorde was not only concerned about justice for well-educated Black women like herself. She was also concerned about the poor and those in developing nations—all who live under the conditions that shape and support white supremacy. This inclusive perspective helps us see that if we fail to “recognize them as other faces of [ourselves],” then we are contributing not only to their oppression but also to our own.[Keisha N. Blain: The women who paved the way for this moment]At this point, you might be thinking: This sounds difficult! I understand your concern. Lordean rage might not seem like an emotion to which we’re naturally given, and we might think that becoming the kind of person who could use it productively would be hard work. Is Lordean rage an exclusive state of mind that only a few noble souls are capable of achieving?Thankfully, the answer is no. You might think that what we are naturally given to, when we are angry at a sibling, for example, is an urge to lash out at them. And any opposing reaction to this natural desire to retaliate might seem superhuman or super-virtuous. However, this kind of thinking stems from a broad-strokes conception of anger, which leads us astray.I can have a destructive kind of anger directed at my brother and a constructive kind of anger directed at racists. (Both kinds of anger can coexist in me—I contain multitudes!) The presence of the former shows that I’m not perfect, but it doesn’t cancel out the possibility of Lordean rage directed at racists in the pursuit of a more just society. Lordean rage requires us to have moral sensitivity and moral imagination—but not necessarily moral excellence. It is within reach.This article is adapted from Cherry’s forthcoming book, The Case for Rage: Why Anger Is Essential to Anti-Racist Struggle.
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theatlantic.com
Biden Cannot Declare Victory on Climate Without One of These Policies
In the past few years, a historic shift has occurred in American public opinion: For the first time ever, and across a variety of polling outlets, a majority of Americans say that they want to see the government take serious action on climate change. This shift has accompanied an eruption of climate-related disasters. Wildfires now paralyze the West Coast. Heat waves have killed elderly people in their homes. And record-breaking floods have destroyed farms, shut down cities, and drowned children in basements.Since he entered the race for his current job, President Joe Biden has stressed the danger of climate change, naming it one of the “four historic crises” that the country faces now. He has promised to zero out carbon pollution from the electricity system by 2035, with 80 percent of U.S. electricity coming from zero-carbon sources by 2030.These goals are the backbone of Biden’s climate agenda. He cannot meet his climate commitment without a realistic, trustworthy plan to hit these electricity goals. There are two different ways to achieve them: the Clean Electricity Program, which incentivizes utilities to increase the amount of zero-carbon power that they generate each year, or a carbon tax, which levies a fee on each ton of greenhouse-gas pollution released into the atmosphere.If Congress can pass either of these policies, then Biden’s climate agenda will succeed, and the world will have a much better shot of avoiding the worst ravages of climate change by the middle of the century. If not, then Biden’s climate agenda will fall short.The fate of these policies is being decided now. Last night, The New York Times reported that Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, opposes the Clean Electricity Program proposed in the reconciliation bill. But Manchin himself has not said so publicly, and House progressives, too, have some leverage left: If that bill does not address climate change to their satisfaction, then they can veto the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Today, remarkably, 60 percent of U.S. electricity is generated by fossil fuels. In order to meaningfully address climate change, that number must decline and rapidly reach zero. Building a zero-carbon electricity system isn’t some environmentalist fantasy; it is the first and most important step to actually managing climate change in the next two decades.This is because of the basic restrictions of chemistry and technology. Right now, a huge portion of economic activity is powered by the controlled combustion of fossil fuels, which produce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Humanity knows how to generate energy without causing carbon pollution—using wind turbines, solar panels, nuclear plants, and more—but only in the flexible yet specific form of electricity. Nearly every plan to limit climate change in the United States follows a two-step process: First, the country must scale up the power grid, generating nearly all of its electricity from zero-carbon sources. Second, it must bring almost every fossil-powered industrial process onto the electricity grid.Between the Clean Electricity Program and a carbon tax, the Clean Electricity Program is Biden’s best option. It would directly incentivize utilities to clean up their grid by offering federal grants for those that boosted zero-carbon electricity production by 4 percent each year. Utilities that do not meet that standard can buy credits or pay a small penalty. The policy is designed to keep electricity rates low for consumers, has support from large utilities, and resembles clean-electricity programs that have been successfully implemented in 29 states. With this program in place, the U.S. electricity grid would generate 73 percent of its energy from zero-carbon sources within a decade, preventing at least 400 million tons of carbon pollution, according to the Rhodium Group, an energy-analysis firm. (Climate tax credits would bump zero-carbon energy’s share of the energy mix the rest of the way to Biden’s 80-percent goal.) Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan think tank, has found similar results. Biden’s other option is to support a carbon price. Such a policy has traditionally been a favorite of economists, and it would reduce carbon pollution. A carbon fee of $15 per ton, rising 5 percent each year and exempting gasoline (as any Biden plan reportedly would), promises to eliminate 45 percent of U.S. carbon pollution by 2030 compared with its all-time high, according to Resources for the Future. That makes it roughly comparable to the Clean Electricity Program, and it would make Biden’s goal of halving carbon pollution by 2030 feasible.But there are good reasons to be skeptical of a carbon tax. A carbon tax is, by design, intended to raise fossil-fuel prices, which strikes me as politically unwise, amid a global spike in energy prices and an ongoing producers’ strike in the Texas oil patch. Taxing carbon also turns fossil fuels into an enduring source of government revenue, when the goal should instead be to eliminate them.Yet for all these quibbles, a carbon tax would undoubtedly work. And the passage of either a carbon tax or the Clean Electricity Program would amount to a colossal political achievement, finally allowing the United States to sit among its peer countries that have passed significant climate policy.Manchin is the greatest opponent of both these policies. He has reportedly told Biden that he cannot accept the Clean Electricity Program, even though he seemed to accept it in a secret agreement that he signed with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer this summer. Senate Democrats respect Manchin and understand his unusual political acumen—he has, after all, found a way to win elections as a Democrat in a state that Donald Trump won by 39 points last year. Although Manchin’s family owns a coal-brokerage company from which he might still draw an income, he may have broader goals as a politician. He seems determined to ensure that the roughly 31,000 fossil-fuel workers in his state can envision a future for themselves in a decarbonizing economy—much as climate activists are desperate to see a safe and prosperous future for themselves in the hot years ahead.If the Times is wrong that Manchin has categorically rejected Clean Electricity Program, there is plenty about these policies that Manchin and Biden can and should negotiate about. They could slow the Clean Electricity Program’s pace of change (should utilities go zero-carbon at 3 percent a year, rather than 4?) or adjust the amount of carbon capture permitted (should natural-gas plants that capture 80 percent of their pollution count?). They could exempt certain states from the program during its early years. The Clean Electricity Program would supercharge one of Manchin’s own provisions in the bill—a tax credit that would help companies build clean-energy technologies in America—by creating 15 to 30 percent more jobs than the policy would alone.These details matter—they will decide how fast America’s significant share of global carbon pollution falls—but ultimately either the Clean Electricity Program or carbon tax would allow the U.S. to further drive down the cost of producing zero-carbon energy. That benefit would redound worldwide, shaping a far larger share of global climate pollution.Is there a third option here? According to the Times, White House staff is now “trying to cobble together a mix of other policies that could also cut emissions,” and they could plausibly find some provisions that are acceptable to Manchin that would also encourage utilities to replace some of their fossil-fuel generation with renewables. But barring a miracle, the administration would be forced to fall back on using Environmental Protection Agency rules to reduce carbon pollution, a potentially costly and arduous process that would be vulnerable to challenges at the conservative Supreme Court or rollbacks from future presidents. And there is no guarantee that it would become settled law by the 2024 election.These political concerns may seem quotidian, and they are—but how and whether any of these policies pass is a question of world-historical importance. Lawmakers, the press, and Americans of good character must understand that the U.S. has more at stake than the particular makeup of its electricity system. Over the past few years, some of the most famous institutions in the country—the biggest companies, universities, states, and cities—have pledged to act on climate change. Leading diplomats have flown around the world to proclaim the seriousness of America’s commitment.But what have they concretely accomplished? For all its climate-destroying coal plants, China still installs more solar power than any other country, sells more electric vehicles than any other country, and operates a weak but expanding carbon market. Trans-Atlantic strategists worry that the European Union, which also maintains a carbon price, could eventually fuse its system to that of its largest trading partner, China. For the U.S. to fail to follow through after so much blabber would suggest, as China’s leaders reportedly believe, that our democracy is too sclerotic to meet the current crisis. That is a mortifying conclusion for the country, and a potentially dangerous one for the world order. If the U.S. cannot pass one of these policies, cannot bring itself to actually reduce carbon pollution, then it will strengthen the perception that American democracy is fundamentally sick, dying, unable to act on an issue on which its leaders’ credibility and its international stature rides. We will look like a decadent, soul-sick nation, too feeble to govern our basest instincts. And, well, aren’t we?
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theatlantic.com