What I’m reading this week: 11 March 2016

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I apologise for not updating my weekly reads in a week. Last week was horribly hectic and busy; this week hasn’t been much better, but I have a small collection of reads from the past fortnight.

First up, a little bit of good news from France, in honour of International Womens’ (Workers) Day. François Hollande, president of France, was profiled in the latest issue of Elle France, discussing various ‘feminist’ issues. Le Monde‘s Catherine Mallaval and Virginie Ballet summarise the article and discuss the history of French presidents and their attempts at connecting with women. France in general, in my view, still has an issue with equality amongst the sexes, but Hollande calling himself a feminist is probably better than anything we’ll get out of our male American leaders. [Article is in French.]

It’s not all good news in la belle France, though. Le Monde reports on findings from the European Council on issues of racism there, especially in the rise of harassment towards Muslims and Jews, along with general xenophobia. The council especially notes that France’s concept of la laïcité is taken to extremes very often, by banning outward expressions of religion that are deemed ‘ostentatious’. France is the very definititon of a ‘problematic fave’ as my students would say. [Article is in French.]

Coming back to America, then. The election continues apace, and now we are in an interesting place: the Republicans don’t want their winner to continue to win, and the Democrats are pushing further and further to the left. Danielle Kurtzleben writes about Tuesday’s (9 March) primaries, and what there is to learn.

Veit Medick, the Washington correspondent for Der Spiegel, writes about Donald Trump’s rise and the worry it is bringing people in the Republican party and in intellectual circles in his article Donald Trump und der Super Tuesday: Angst um Amerika. You can see my thoughts on his Super Tuesday win, and Super Tuesday in general, right here.

And finally, Emma Lindsay explains parts of the complicated history of racism tinged with classism and why it’s helping Donald Trump at the Medium. Being white and being poor, she explains, is probably still better than being black and being poor, because:

To summarize, no one wants to occupy the “last” place in society. No one wants to be the most despised. As long as racism remains intact, poor white people are guaranteed not to be “the worst.” If racism is ever truly dismantled, then poor white people will occupy the lowest rung of society, and the shame of occupying this position is very painful. This shame is so painful, that the people at risk of feeling it will vote on it above all other issues.

Whilst this is not a new argument, Lindsay’s essay is well-timed and well-written and a good look at the mindset of poor, white America.

Until next time. – SDM

Photo by Javier Rodriguez

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The Ascendancy of Donald Trump

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So, Donald Trump has won in Nevada, and now he has won seven of the eleven Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses.. This is not surprising, actually. He has name recognition and he has a lead. There’s been ample evidence that, whilst Americans do love the underdog, it’s just not enough to help them win. Also, when your underdogs are people as personally unlikable as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, you’re honestly choosing between people who are going to be bad and worse for the country.

I unfortunately wasn’t able to watch the Republican debate on the 25th of February, but I’ve read enough to know that we shall not receive any actionable policy from anyone on the Republican side; it will be vitriol upon vitriol. Tonight’s debate will be no different.

What has the Republican party become? It would do no good to compare it to the Republican party of Abraham Lincoln, but to the party of Eisenhower. With each Republican presidency, the mix has become more and more astringent and difficult to swallow: war-obsessed, racist and xenophobic. It is no longer the fringes of the party that holds these ideals; the Republicans have chosen someone in Trump that holds all of these ideals. Despite the many conspiracies surrounding him (he’s a mole for the Democratic party, he’s only running as a commercial ploy, he’s a meme), Trump is winning votes and perhaps it is time to re-examine our American priorities.

Until next time, friends. – SDM

Photo by Thierry Ehrmann

#weekendcoffeeshare: A Weekend of Politics

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I do not actually drink coffee. So, were we having a cup of coffee, I would opt for a nice cup of tea. Today’s cup of tea is actually a cup of Fortnum & Mason’s Queen Anne blend of Ceylon and Assam. (I am a bit of a tea person.) It is a bright and sunny but impressively cold day for a southern state (3°C).

Currently, I am curled up on my sofa listening to my enormous backlog of podcasts. I am a big fan of podcasts and I listen to a wide range of them. My favourite political one, other than the BBC’s The Week in Westminster is The Best of the LeftI’ve been listening to them for a while. I’m on episode #985, A conservative policy showcase (Flint’s poisoned water). Obviously, I can only say that this sort of thing is infuriating, and were we having our caffeinated beverages, we’d probably spend a lot of time talking about it. My favourite bit about this podcast is that they have a segment called Activisim, where they tell you about petitions, awareness campaigns and other proposals to help once you’ve been informed and angered.

If we were in France and having coffee, it would be an espresso, and I would be overjoyed (I do love France). I would be gushing about my new favourite news magazine, Les Jours. It is a subscription-based, completely independent and online news source created by a team from Libé, a left-wing newspaper which I also love. I’ve just finished reading a longform article about the collège system in France. Collège is French for middle-school, and it was an amazing look at it. I’m current reading a first-person account about the days after the 13 November attacks. I have found a new love. I would be telling you to subscribe!

Later, I will probably binge-watch The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. I was a huge fan of the show with Jon Stewart, and I love Noah’s very different look at our political system. I also think he’s very cute, superficially. So were we having coffee, I’d probably be repeating a joke poorly or telling you about something I learnt from the show.

And finally tonight, the Republican debate on CBS. Were we having coffee, you would probably ask why I would torture myself. I would tell you that I am really funny on Twitter and that the Republican debates are a source of much horrified amusement.

So, let’s drink on, friends. – SDM

NB: Read all the other Weekend Coffee Share posts for this weekend here.

Photo by Greg (Vanderdecken)

On the Iowa Caucus

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I would be remiss if I didn’t at least discuss some numbers and make some sort of commentary on yesterday’s caucus, but to be frank, the results were not too surprising.

Ted Cruz winning on the Republican side is not testament to his ground game or his policies being more popular than anyone in his party. It is purely because he is a preacher’s son and Iowa’s Republicans are mostly evangelical Christians who are socially conservative. (Huckabee, the other evangelical social Conservative, dropped out of the race.)

I hardly want to think about Donald Trump moving on, but he did get second place. So he will continue on to New Hampshire. Will he win enough delegates? How will he do on Super Tuesday? I hardly want to think about him any more but apparently he’ll be hanging on like a particularly nasty cold.

I am not going to pretend that I wasn’t more interested in the race on the Democratic side. The fact that almost all media has touted Clinton’s hilariously marginal ‘win’ as a victory for her is…worrisome. What a dynasty America has become. I have to be neutral, as a teacher, but when speaking to other teachers I honestly admit that I don’t like the idea of another Clinton in office. That admission seems to make people think that I am a Republican, and I am hardly one to disabuse them of that notion.

And finally, The Independent describes a crazy tradition of a coin-toss to determine county delegates. Hillary Clinton won six of those county wide delegates, though she only ended up with two more delegates than Sanders. Hardly a stellar victory. I don’t think people are convinced by Clinton yet.

We shall see. Le jeu commence as they would say in France. The game is on. – SDM

Photo by crazysixdownunder