For a couple of years now I’ve had a theory, one I haven’t told you all about. It goes something like this–Canada is just like us, but 5-10 years ago. Here’s how it works.
Many in the western press are oversimplifying the story about Venezuela, blaming its economic crisis more or less exclusively on the socialist policies of President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez. Government policy has contributed to the shape the crisis has taken, but there is a lot more going on than meets the eye. I want to try to tell a fuller story.
Today a friend of mine sent me a piece by Franklin Foer in The Atlantic. In the piece Foer gives some thought to what ails the Democratic Party, and he comes to a constructive conclusion–the party needs to reach out to the white working class. But the way Foer gets there troubles me. Too many liberal commentators don’t quite understand the division within the Democratic Party, even the ones who are actively trying to understand that division. Let me show you what I mean.
During President Trump’s first few months in office, media coverage has tended to vacillate between covering Trump’s substantive political agenda–his Supreme Court nominee, his healthcare reform, his budget, etc.–and the alleged connection between members of the Trump administration and the Russian government. Trump opponents had a politically great news cycle last week about the Republican healthcare bill. Jimmy Kimmel offered some brilliant pathos about ensuring that all families have access to healthcare, and House Republicans made it clear that they don’t share his priority by passing a healthcare bill which has been projected by the CBO to deny coverage to 24 million Americans, many of whom are poor and working people who voted for Trump. This is a moment of profound contrast in moral and political values and it’s a brilliant opportunity to expose the con that was Trump’s promise of universal healthcare, a con underlined by the subsequent praise he offered to the Australian healthcare system when that system looks nothing like the bill he’s championed in the House. But instead of staying with this issue, the press and the commentariat have quickly jumped back over to the Trump/Russia scandal (let’s call it “Trussiagate”) in response to the firing of FBI Director James Comey. A lot of people get excited about this scandal’s political potential because they’d like to use it to someday impeach Trump. But it’s not nearly as politically useful as it appears to be, and it’s dumbing down our foreign policy debate.
There are protests in North Dakota over the half-complete Dakota Access Pipeline. The plan is for the DAP to carry 400,000 barrels of oil per day from North Dakota to existing pipeline infrastructure in Illinois. This is about half the capacity of the larger Keystone XL Pipeline, which President Obama cancelled in response to protests from environmental groups. While Keystone was planned to transport Canadian shale oil, the DAP is a domestic pipeline transporting American fracking oil. Because it is a domestic pipeline, regulatory standards are not as high for the DAP, and this has made it easier for the pipeline to secure the relevant permits. While there has been some media coverage, the DAP protests have been pushed to the periphery of the American political agenda by the US presidential race, which has at this point devolved entirely into horse race reporting–who is winning, why they are winning, what the loser needs to do to turn things around, etc.–with no serious policy emphasis. This does the issue a disservice, so I’d like to take a closer look at it.