Thursday, March 26, 2020

It's Coronatime! Roundup

While I'm dubious that there are actually large numbers of people who will consciously avoid Corona beer because of coronavirus, I still can't fathom what their PR people are going to do with this. It's like all those apartment complexes called "The Isis" -- you hate to see pretty word get ruined like that.

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Trump campaign threatens the operating licenses of stations which run ads critical of Trump's handling of the coronavirus (the ad is damn good too). The real tragedy is that, with college campuses largely closed, there probably isn't some 19-year old Oberlin kid with a stupid protest we can all point to as "the real threat to freedom of speech in America."

Hobby Lobby CEO decides God wants him to keep his stores open, but doesn't really care about giving his workers paid sick leave.

Democrats made the coronavirus bill that passed the Senate much, much better than it was at the start.

Billionaires are ready for American workers to start working again, goddammit!

Technically ex-Rep. Brenda Jones (it's complicated) is seeking a rematch against "Squad" darling Rep. Rashida Tlaib. One might think Jones' unabashed stanning of Louis Farrakhan would present a problem given literally every Jewish opinion piece on antisemitism that's run over the past three years; but you'd be surprised (or not) at how, er, "open-minded" some folks are suddenly capable of being given the opportunity to take out Tlaib (Jones' ongoing praise and admiration for Farrakhan and his organization vs. a solitary article written by Tlaib in an NoI publication 15 years ago -- these probably wash out, right?). The ultimate kicker: Tlaib almost certainly will crush Jones anyway, so all this selling out of deep-seated principles will be for naught.

DOJ intercedes in court to argue that allowing trans women to compete in women's sports (and, one imagines, trans men to compete in men's sports?) is not required by and may indeed violate Title IX.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

UK Jewish Community Hit Especially Hard by Coronavirus

In the United Kingdom, Jews represent approximately .3% of the population. They also currently comprise nearly 5% of all coronavirus deaths.

Obviously, my heart goes out to them. But I can't help but think that one of the cruel ironies of antisemitism is that, if Jews were disproportionately unlikely to be victims, it would be proof that we're behind the virus, and if we're disproportionately likely to be victims, it would be proof that we're spreading the virus. There's no winning in the antisemitic imagination.

Monday, March 23, 2020

World Zionist Congress Election Results: Catastrophe

The World Zionist Congress results are in, and they're ... bad. No way around it -- it's just a catastrophe all around.

I was supporting the Hatikvah slate, which represents progressive groups like Ameinu and J Street and finished fifth last election. This year, Hatikvah made a big push to improve its showing and succeeded in doubling its vote share ... only to come in seventh (with 6% of the vote). Conservative groups rallied to in response to Hatikvah's mobilization, and dramatically improved their showing. Two Orthodox groups, Orthodox Israel Coalition – Mizrachi and Eretz Hakodesh, surged to second and third place (both positioned themselves on the conservative end of the Orthodox spectrum). Less ultimately consequential but more insulting was that the ZOA slate leap-frogged over Hatikvah to finish fourth with 8%.

The plurality winner remained the Reform Jewish slate (which is a progressive bloc as well), but saw a vastly reduced vote share, dropping from 39% to 25%. The centrist Conservative movement slate (MERCAZ) also dipped from 19% to 12%. Basically, the right -- both in terms of religious equality and anti-democratic values -- saw huge gains against brutal losses for the left and center. Whatever the next WZC does, it will almost certainly favor settlements, annexation, the Orthodox monopoly, and the acceleration of Israeli illiberalism.

Other people more plugged in than I can probably explain these results better than I can. If you pressed me, my hypotheses are:
(a) Hativkah's initial success in mobilizing energy and support made it into an effective boogeyman for the right, and this "counterattack" ultimately had greater reach than Hatikvah's pool of progressive support; 
(b) Orthodox communal groups took the election more seriously and have strong GOTV norms in their communities; and 
(c) a growing shift where the American Jews who will self-select into explicitly "Israel" related political activity (at least, activity that isn't solely critical) are primarily the right-wing ones.
Oh, and in Israel itself, the speaker of the Knesset is refusing to allow a vote on his replacement because it looks like the current opposition has a majority. So that's one giant leap toward autocracy.

It's nice to know that, even with the coronavirus disaster bearing down on us, we can still periodically poke our heads up and turn our gaze over to other, totally different catastrophes.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

How It All Came Apart for Sanders

In the space of about a week, Bernie Sanders went from likely Democratic nominee to virtually dead in the water. How did it all go wrong? The New York Times has its entry up in what I'm sure will be a crowded pool.

It's an interesting article, in part because it doesn't have a clear through-line. At times, the piece seems to blame Sanders' reluctance to directly attack Joe Biden (whom he apparently is personally fond of), against the recommendation of more pugnacious advisers (but in line with others who urged him to take a more unifying line). Under this view, going after Biden (on things like the crime bill) would have been the only way to crack his solid support in the African-American community -- but Sanders wasn't willing to "go low" and it cost him.

That account would pose a direct challenge to the "Sanders was too mean" narrative that many folks have coalesced around. But at other points in the article, the authors suggest a different diagnosis -- focusing on Sanders' refusal to modulate his attacks on the "establishment" as a means of expanding his core progressive base and making inroads to the rest of the party. Sanders was extremely reluctant to do the basic political legwork of "assuring concerned stakeholders" or "reach out to secure endorsements", and instead alienated potential allies with undifferentiated broadsides that seemed to be fired against the Democratic Party as a whole. Advisers who defended his strategy here seemed to think that Sanders should only approach the Democratic Party from a position of strength (remember "bend the knee"?). Once Sanders were clearly in a dominant position, then they could reconcile -- but with it obvious who the alpha dog was.

This is a perhaps more "traditional" (if we can use that term yet) account of why the Sanders campaign ended up unraveling, one that puts the blame on his refusal to do the political work of winning an entire party. The same no-compromise qualities that endeared him to his core base severely hampered any instincts Sanders might have had to reach out.

Anyway, it is an interesting piece even (or perhaps because) the account it gives doesn't lend itself to a clear conclusion.