Links: Polarization today; repression in Russia; biggest threat to Biden's agenda

At New York Magazine's Intelligencer blog, Jonathan Chait examines the biggest threat to the Biden agenda: The ability of corporate America to convince enough moderate Democrats in Congress to oppose tax hikes. As I explained last week, the Pro Publica report on tax avoidance by the uber-rich gives the Democrats all the cover they need for tax hikes on the wealthy and big corporations.  

Relatedly, in The Washington Post, Christine Emba enters this discussion about wealth inequality and wonders why there is not a "wealth line" above which no one should rise, just as there is a poverty line below which no should fall. I think this underestimates the significance of original sin, which is the basis for the church's teaching on a right to private property. But I am glad Emba is raising the issue: It is a very useful thought experiment and we need to find ways of confronting the gross inequality that plagues us.

In The New York Times, Molly Worthen — one of my favorite historians — looks at polarization today and, remarkably, finds some reasons for hope that it can be overcome. She quotes Eboo Patel, who has done pioneering work in this area: "I think there is a deep exhaustion in finding an enemy everywhere and turning everything into a fight." Color me skeptical. Worthen cites President Joe Biden: "Over the past six months Mr. Biden has been warning us, in his frank and ecumenical way, that Americans have become a bunch of idol worshipers. He's right. We have transformed political hatreds into a form of idolatry." Getting people to destroy the idols they have built is no easy task. 

At The Atlantic, three professors — Richard Alba, Morris Levy and Dowell Myers — take on the idea that America is becoming a majority-minority nation, label it an inherently divisive myth, and, most damningly, false. The distinction between racial majority and minority misses the important rise of multiracial families and individuals. They write:

In reality, racial diversity is increasing not only at a nationwide level but also within American families — indeed within individual Americans. Nearly three in 10 Asian, one in four Latino, and one in five Black newlyweds are married to a member of a different ethnic or racial group. More than three-quarters of these unions are with a white partner. For more and more Americans, racial integration is embedded in their closest relationships.

I am sure there will be strong pushback from other professors but I sure hope they are right. Racism may have met its match.

At the National Catholic Register, Michael Warsaw, publisher of the National Catholic Register and CEO of EWTN, has penned an essay on this week's U.S. bishops' conference debate about eucharistic coherence. It is not his lousy theology that surprises me: For him and other conservatives, they seem to think the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is the starting point of a faith commitment. It is the sacrifice of Christ on the cross that makes his presence in the Eucharistic elements real. Someone should also tell Warsaw that the Eucharist is something the church does: Thanksgiving is a verb before it is a noun. But what is really appalling is the way he suggests the leadership of the conference is acting in accord with the recent letter from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That letter was a big flashing red light, and Warsaw is smart enough to know that. Still, none of us can see into another man's soul. I look forward to seeing him in person so I can ask if his misrepresentation is the result of bad faith or willful ignorance.  

At Politico, Michele Berdy looks at the dissatisfaction in Russia that the campaign of Alexei Navalny demonstrated, but also at the repression that followed. The next time someone dismisses our constitutional norms as unimportant, or thinks liberalism has served its purpose and should be set aside, tell them to go to Russia.

Michael Sean Winters

Michael Sean Winters covers the nexus of religion and politics for NCR.


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