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10 Leaders in Business, Politics and Arts Share Their Favorite Books of 2019 – The Wall Street Journal

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Flea, Zadie Smith and Robert Iger

Each year we ask more than 50 leaders and luminaries from literature, business, politics and the arts to name the best books they’ve read during the year. You could spend all day reading the full list—and all year reading the books.

Robert Iger

Ta-Nehisi Coates has become one of my favorite authors—he also writes the “Black Panther” comics—and his searing debut novel, “The Water Dancer,” will stay with me forever. I’m fortunate to work with some supremely talented writers and I certainly appreciate the immense power their stories have to develop empathy and an appreciation for the human condition. Our world needs great storytellers to teach us, to enlighten us and to open our minds to our differences. “The Water Dancer” is such a story and solidifies Mr. Coates as one of our great storytellers. The historian Yuval Noah Harari’s profound books have allowed me to consider the state of our world through the prism of the past. But in “21 Lessons for the 21st Century,” Mr. Harari uses history to explore what our future may hold—and makes the case that we should not be afraid of change or disruption, but should rather embrace its inevitability and use it to move us forward. In a business as dynamic as ours, this is a vital lesson.

— Mr. Iger is the CEO of the Walt Disney Co. and the author of “The Ride of a Lifetime.”

Téa Obreht

In preparation for 2019 I found it necessary to break my lifelong habit of reading at bedtime. (It had grown troublesome as I became someone who works way too late and doesn’t realize she’s drifted off, then half-dreams her way through intricate plots at the disastrous pace of one chapter a night.) The rewards have been glorious: My afternoons were spent with Kathleen Alcott’s daringly inventive “America Was Hard to Find” and Karen Russell’s wild and wonderful “Orange World” and Lauren Wilkinson’s genre-bending “American Spy.” I was blown away, too, by

Salvatore Scibona’s

“The Volunteer,” which might be the first book I’ve ever read whose beginning made me cry. It starts with a tiny, desperate boy found at the Hamburg airport speaking an unknown language, and leads us from Latvia to Vietnam, New Mexico and Cambodia, through lifetimes and family myths, memories, upheavals and betrayals of mind and body.

— Ms. Obreht is the author of “Inland.”

Marc Benioff

This year, three extraordinary leaders remind us that we can all be a platform for change. In “The Ride of a Lifetime,” Robert Iger chronicles his amazing career—including his 15 years leading Disney. I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes stories illustrating key moments that shaped Disney’s history and Bob’s 45-year career. His “Lessons to Lead By” will help everyone, from new hires to chief executives. My good friend David Rubenstein brings us “The American Story,” applying his incredible interviewing skills to draw out deep insights from our nation’s top presidential historians. David’s book shows us how the past informs our understanding of the present and can shape our future. Roger McNamee’s “Zucked” captures the disastrous consequences of one of our most powerful companies not making trust its No. 1 value. Every page is a reminder that businesses can do more than make a profit; it should be a corporate responsibility to serve stakeholders as well as shareholders and improve the state of the world.

— Mr. Benioff is chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce and co-author, with Monica Langley, of “Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change.”

Zadie Smith

I reread “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and reremembered it’s a masterpiece. I read “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” by

Shoshana Zuboff

and “Re-engineering Humanity” by Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger and wished everyone would read both before the re-engineering is total. I read “Potiki” by the Maori author Patricia Grace and thought she should get the Nobel. I read “Voices From Chernobyl” by Svetlana Alexievich and was glad she already has one. I read “Fleishman Is in Trouble” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner on a plane to Australia: I laughed and cried. The flight was so long I also read “A Month in Siena” by Hisham Matar. Everybody should get to spend a month with Mr. Matar, looking at paintings. I read “Black Lives: W.E.B. Du Bois at the Paris Exposition 1900,” edited by Julian Rothenstein, and felt thankful for Du Bois. I read “The Politics of Pain: Postwar England and the Rise of Nationalism” by Fintan O’Toole and wished I’d written it. I read “The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes”—that 16th-century servant who revealed the corruption of all masters—and marveled at how a long-departed consciousness could still feel present. I read “Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing” and wished that particular consciousness had not departed. I read “Out of Darkness, Shining Light” by Petina Gappah and “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang and felt delighted by fiction. I read “Feel Free” by Nick Laird and felt lucky to have a poet in the house.

— Ms. Smith is the author of “Grand Union.”

HR McMaster

It is difficult to overstate the threat from a nuclear-armed North Korea. Not only as a direct threat to humanity, but also because a nuclear-armed North Korea would lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. If

Kim Jong Un

gets them, who doesn’t? The Kim family has never built a weapon it did not try to sell. As North Korea’s third-generation dictator threatens a “Christmas present” if the U.S. doesn’t accede to his latest demands, we would do well to understand better the emotions, ideology and worldview that drive and constrain his behavior. A great starting point is Anna Fifield’s “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.” The book is impeccably researched. The prose is lively. Ms. Fifield writes with wit and dark humor about a murderous and increasingly dangerous dictator. Through first- and secondhand accounts, she fills in the gaps of Mr. Kim’s life to paint a less-unfinished portrait of the man. He is smarter and more calculating than anyone gives him credit for, securing power by ramping up the nuclear and missile programs started by his predecessors. This book provides a valuable perspective on this formidable adversary and one of our most vexing foreign-policy challenges.

— Mr. McMaster is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Susan Packard

As I turned the final pages of Patti Callahan’s novel “Becoming Mrs. Lewis,” I couldn’t believe the two main characters had only known each other for a decade. The victim of an abusive husband, Joy Davidman flees America with her two small sons and sets up life in England. She becomes a writer and takes the chance to correspond with

C.S. Lewis,

author of the “Chronicles of Narnia” novels. Davidman wants to know more about Lewis’s conversion to Christianity from atheism. She, too, is a convert, from Judaism. Lewis writes her back, and the two become friends. Over the decade of their fierce and growing love, Davidman’s spirit and self-worth grow: “It wasn’t until England I saw who I could be: a brilliant light, cherished for who I was.” Her love in turn transforms Lewis from a man living only in his intellect. “Logic takes no account for the heart,” she tells Lewis. “How can you tell a heart what to do?” She opens him up to the grace of living fully and vulnerably, and changes this brilliant writer forever.

— Ms. Packard is a co-founder of HGTV and the author of “Fully Human.”

Andrew Yang

Artificial intelligence and other new technologies have the potential to change our economy and society in unpredictable ways. Even techies don’t know what’s going to happen. Kai-Fu Lee’s “AI Superpowers” recognizes the power that will come from these technologies and the dangers of falling behind other countries, especially China. The book has shown itself to be particularly relevant and prescient. Few observers, even two or three years ago, could have predicted the current state of U.S.-China relations. The U.S. needs to invest in these areas to catch up, while also bringing the world together in an organization like the WTO for data.

— Mr. Yang is the founder of Venture for America and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate

Flea

Despite my dismay around the dystopian takeover of science fiction and the loss of hope, optimism and fascination that buoyed my Ray Bradbury childhood, I set my petty whining aside to tell you that Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” is a stunner. It’s a terrifying vision of a dismal future brought on by the willful ignorance, racism and greed of human beings, and an eerily dangerous parallel to our present path. Ms. Butler gives us a satisfying protagonist in the hypersensitive teenager Lauren, whose courage and wits are an infinite source of inspiration. Paulette Jiles’s “News of the World” is the only book I’ve read that caused me to yell out loud in the solitude of my bedroom. Young Johanna, displaced by the wildly shifting world around her, shows courage and spiritual depth beyond her years and filled my heart with purpose. It’s a history book and the most profound love story between Johanna and an elderly man named Capt. Kidd. Toni Morrison’s “Sula,” the first book I read together with my then-fiancée in our two-person book club, is an absolute epic. Love and yearning, pathos and racism, a deep friendship connection forged in secret trauma, it was the last Morrison book I read before her passing and must be held in the highest esteem.

— Flea plays bass for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and is the author of “Acid for the Children.”

Twyla Tharp

Three books recently gave me hope that consensus can be reached in our radically divided culture, emphasizing the optimism and courage to be had when we debate our differences. John Sexton’s “Standing for Reason” demonstrates the commitment needed from adults to support the development of knowledgeable and inquisitive young thinkers. Mr. Sexton, a former president of New York University, insists on the power of logic in dialogue to weld the silos of a large urban university into one force. It can be done. In “A Month in Siena,” Hisham Matar’s study of paintings found in this Italian city help transform the brutal loss of his father into a rebirth of faith. The iconography of three Sienese painters gives Mr. Matar his metaphor. In the first half of the 14th century, Ambrogio Lorenzetti portrayed a democratic Siena ruled through individual civic responsibility. In the latter half of that century, following the Plague, Bartolo Battiloro showed Siena’s community spirit deteriorating; its collective guilt and terror made the city susceptible to a hegemonic ruler. Then a century after the plague, Giovanni di Paolo represented individuals once again capable of communicating directly, without intermediaries, in a work appropriately titled “Paradise.” Józef Czapski’s “Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp” is just that. Czapski, a Polish officer, was captured during World War II and taken to a Russian hard-labor camp. At the end of each harsh day, the prisoners maintained their sanity by giving one another lectures on the subjects they knew best. As there were no written documents allowed, these recitations were entirely from memory. Czapski’s almost literal recall of Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” is incredible in its detail; yet even more impressive is his insistence that we can maintain humanity through communication with one another. May we all so triumph in the New Year.

— Ms. Tharp is a choreographer and the author of “Keep It Moving.”

Will Hurd

In “American Carnage,” Tim Alberta explains why our political system is where it is. He illuminates how trends like a widening chasm in incomes, a shredded national identity and a dissipating sense of societal cohesiveness have blurred together into an expression of outrage and how politicians have responded to these changes. He details how “elections in modern America are won principally by mobilizing the base, not persuading the middle.” This is dangerous: The only way we have solved problems in this country is by working together. “American Carnage” helps us understand how and why we’ve forgotten the basic truth that way more unites us than divides us.

— Mr. Hurd is a congressman from Texas.

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On Politics: A Sanders Scenario – The New York Times

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Welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections, based on reporting by Times journalists.

Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.


  • The Democratic competition in Iowa has returned to a state of semi-suspended animation now that Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar are back at the Senate impeachment trial. Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg remain in Iowa campaigning.

  • Buttigieg faced questions from voters at two Iowa events on Monday about how he will win more support from African-Americans. This morning, The Times published a story by Reid J. Epstein detailing frustrations and grievances among people of color working for the Buttigieg campaign, some of whom felt stressed about the candidate’s lack of support from black and Hispanic voters.

  • Of all the candidates, it’s the absent Sanders who is the hot topic in Iowa’s political circles. “I have told my colleagues all along: Bernie Sanders can win with 27 percent of the vote here,” Representative Dave Loebsack told Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns for their latest article on the Iowa race. If the multiple non-Sanders candidates split the vote, Sanders could prevail with a far smaller percentage of the electorate than past victors like Hillary Clinton (who had 49.8 percent), Barack Obama (37.6 percent) or John Kerry (37.6 percent, too).

  • We asked Alex about any stirrings of a stop-Sanders movement. He texts: “Much of the Dem establishment is still crossing its fingers and hoping Biden comes out of IA/NH strong enough to become a focal point of opposition to Sanders. But beyond that, there’s not much of an organized Stop Sanders effort — not yet, anyway. Lots of skepticism that another white centrist like Buttigieg or Klobuchar can win minority votes. The only thing that really looks like an anti-Sanders firewall right now is the Bloomberg campaign.”

  • Whoever they nominate, many Democrats say their main concern is getting President Trump out of office. But polls show him in an increasingly strong position against his potential Democratic rivals, partly thanks to the humming economy. According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, while Trump’s job approval numbers remain historically low, his handling of the economy gets higher marks. And in head-to-head matchups with top Democrats, Trump is now neck-and-neck among all registered voters, the poll found.


Chasten Buttigieg stood on a chair to snap a shot of his husband, Pete, amid a gaggle of reporters after a town hall event in Boone, Iowa, on Monday.


Less than a day after The New York Times reported that John Bolton’s unpublished memoir contradicts the administration’s impeachment defense, two Republican senators signaled that they were prepared to call Mr. Bolton as a witness. But it’s too soon to know if that’ll happen.

“I think it’s important to be able to hear from John Bolton for us to be able to make an impartial judgment,” Mitt Romney of Utah told reporters on Monday. Romney was joined by Susan Collins of Maine in calling for Bolton to testify; it was the first break in a Republican wall of opposition to calling new witnesses or evidence in the impeachment trial.

At least four Republican senators would need to vote with their Democratic colleagues to allow fresh witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed. To ultimately remove Trump from office, a two-thirds majority would be needed.

That is a high hurdle to surmount — and according to Peter Baker, our chief White House correspondent, it’s an almost impossible one in today’s political reality.

At the trial itself, Trump’s team continued to present its defense without responding to the news outside. His lawyers argued that the House’s impeachment had been unjust and made accusations against Biden. They barely mentioned Bolton.


By

Theirs is not much of a nail-biter, but Republicans also have a caucus in Iowa on Feb. 3. Two candidates challenging Trump, Joe Walsh and William Weld, are technically running, though they haven’t made any inroads in Trump’s support.

The Iowa Republican Party didn’t cancel its caucus in part because it values the state’s first-in-the-nation status, but also because it sees the exercise as a productive dry run for what it expects will be a competitive process in 2024.

“We’ve got over 100 trainings,” said Jeff Kaufmann, the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party. “We get no tax dollars, no help. We’ve got to raise about $750,000 to hold this caucus. It’s a significant investment.”

Trump himself is expected in Des Moines on Thursday night for a rally, part of a ramped-up campaign schedule. Kaufmann noted that Iowa was still a swing state, even though Trump won it handily in 2016, and the president will be speaking to independents.

“For all practical purposes,” Kaufmann said, “this is the beginning of the general election.”


By

The airwaves in Iowa are seeing the first truly negative ad to attack a Democratic candidate.

The target: Sanders.

The source: not a Democratic rival, but the Club for Growth, a conservative outside group.

The Washington think tank said it had spent $41,500 to guarantee the ad would remain on the air in Iowa through the caucuses.

The ad features all the hallmarks of a traditional attack ad: a conspiratorial-voiced narrator ticks off a list of policy positions, lampooning them as “radical” before also pointing to Sanders’s “extreme” age (he is 78).

Except.

Aside from the attack on Sanders for being “too old,” his campaign will probably welcome the Club for Growth ad, which accuses him of wanting to give “government health insurance to everyone” and calls his Green New Deal “even bigger than the New Deal.”

Members of the Sanders campaign were quick to seize on the ad. His speechwriter David Sirota went so far as to call it a “positive.”

But the Club for Growth said it wasn’t concerned about how the ad might be construed.

“The potential for a radical socialist as the Democratic nominee has never been more real,” said David McIntosh, the president of Club for Growth Action.


By

After months of tiptoeing around the issue, Warren is embracing her standing as the lone woman in the top tier of Democratic presidential candidates. She is structuring her final pitch to Iowa voters around that identity, summed up in a single pithy line: “Women win.”

The latest example was a campaign video tweeted out Monday morning: In it, Warren answers a questioner who is deciding whether to support her. Warren cites her first election victory, in 2012, when she defeated a Republican incumbent, and describes what she sees as the reasons female candidates have outperformed men nationwide since Trump’s election.

In mentioning her gender, she is also flicking at the back-and-forth she had with Sanders, whom she accused of telling her in 2018 that a woman could not win the presidency.

Without mentioning her rival by name, Warren is seeking to rally voters around that exchange while building on a subtle theme of her campaign, which has deployed historical accounts of women’s involvement in the labor movement in pivotal speeches.


By

You probably missed it, but on Friday the Democratic National Committee chairman, Tom Perez, sent out a list of appointments to lead and serve on the three standing committees of the Democratic National Convention.

The list is mostly party stalwarts, which you might say makes sense — it’s the party leader picking party officials. Barney Frank, the former congressman, and Maria Cardona, a strategist, were tapped to lead the rules committee. Denis McDonough, the former Obama White House chief of staff, was named to lead the platform committee.

But with Sanders ascendant in the polls, some of his supporters weren’t happy with the establishment-leaning list — including Nina Turner, a co-chair of the Sanders campaign.

“It is an embarrassment. The D.N.C. should be ashamed of itself,” Ms. Turner told the progressive site Status Coup on Monday. “It really is a slap in the face to folks who were asking for reform.”

Turner also pointed back to the dust-up between the committee and the Sanders campaign during the 2016 presidential race, when leaked emails showed D.N.C. staff members had traded disparaging messages about the Sanders campaign.

“If the D.N.C. believes that it’s going to get away in 2020 with what it did in 2016, it has another thing coming,” Turner said.



On Politics is also available as a newsletter. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox.

Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

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Why America’s Political Divisions Will Only Get Worse – The New York Times

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WHY WE’RE POLARIZED
By Ezra Klein

My first reaction to any book about our polarization is “Oh, no, not another one.” We have a ton of books and many more articles and op-eds about the polarized state of our politics, our elections and our country. So the question about “Why We’re Polarized” was whether its author had anything meaningful to add.

Ezra Klein describes himself in his new book the following way: “I’ve been a political journalist for more than 15 years. In that time, I’ve been a blogger, a newspaper reporter, a magazine writer, a long-form editor, an opinion columnist, a cable news host, a social media personality, a viral video star, a podcaster and a media entrepreneur.” That would be quite a career — but Klein is only 35 years old!

He burst onto the national opinion stage in 2007, at the age of 23, with a blog at The American Prospect. A year and a half later, he moved to The Washington Post to create what became known as Wonkblog, an extraordinarily powerful and compelling example of what we now call explanatory journalism — less opinion (not no opinion) and more in-depth exploration of ideas and policy proposals. Wonkblog became particularly important as it delved into health policy at just the time that the debate heated up over what became the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Klein also became an opinion columnist for Bloomberg and a frequent host on prime time shows at MSNBC. Five years later, he launched Vox, an explanatory news organization that he says now reaches more than 50 million people each month.

What made Klein so prominent was his ability to absorb vast amounts of data and complex studies and provide a framework for understanding them in a clear-cut, readable fashion, accessible both to experts and to lay people. He makes clear that he is firmly on the progressive side of politics and policy, but does not tilt his analysis to fit his predispositions. And indeed, “Why We’re Polarized” delivers.

Klein describes neatly and concisely what has changed in our electoral politics, using political science research from scholars like Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster of Emory. In the 1970s, voters tended to split tickets between, say, congressional and presidential races; in that decade the correlation of the two votes was 0.54. In the 1980s it rose to 0.65. Now it is 0.97! Just as stunning, another researcher, the political scientist Corwin Smidt, found that today’s self-proclaimed independents “vote more predictably for one party over another than yesteryear’s partisans.” The key here, however, is what Abramowitz and Webster call “negative partisanship” — that people are now more motivated by their antipathy for the other party than by affinity for their own. The willingness of ardent Trump supporters to stick with him through scandal, outrage and actions that may damage their own economic standing becomes more understandable — criticizing him or seeing him suffer a defeat means that the evil enemy has gained a victory.

What Klein adds especially to our understanding of how we got here — why Trump is more a vessel for our division than the cause, and why his departure will not provide any magical cure — is represented in his overall thesis: There is a logic to our polarization. It has become a kind of loop. As the public has polarized, in part because of the behavior of political actors and institutions (including media), the actors and institutions respond by behaving in more polarized ways — which further polarizes the public, and so on and so on. Klein focuses on political identity, noting that the phrase “identity politics” has become a weapon used by one group to diminish the legitimacy of others, but that there is a better way to use the term: not as a blade, he says, but as a lens.

Of course, we all have many identities. We have family ones, community ones, ethnic and racial ones, religious ones, hobby-related ones and so many more. In October, one of my core identities was as a fan of the Washington Nationals — and to see the exultation of more than 40,000 fans at Nationals Park when they won the National League pennant, morphing into ecstasy for hundreds of thousands when they won the World Series, underscored how an identity that should not be core can animate people.

But sport fandom aside, America has gone from people having overlapping and intersecting identities to where there is now a set of political mega-identities. Klein writes that these identities are now stacked on top of one another so that challenging one of them challenges all of them. “The merging of the identities means when you activate one you often activate all, and each time they’re activated, they strengthen.” He quotes the scholar Lilliana Mason: “The crisis emerges when partisan identities fall into alignment with other social identities, stoking our intolerance of each other to levels that are unsupported by our degrees of political disagreement.”

As Klein digs more deeply into this, the results become unrelentingly depressing. He draws on a slew of studies to show that when we are presented with evidence contradicting our beliefs, the strong reaction is to discount it and look for evidence that confirms our beliefs. Persuasive studies show that if you take people who are deeply into their political identities and make them watch, listen to and read those who have opposite views, it causes them to dig even more deeply into their core identities, not alter them or soften their views of the enemy. And the impact of all this is greater on those who pay the most attention to issues and politics than it is on the more disengaged!

Even more depressing is what happens when you explore the identity division through the lens of demography. That means especially confronting race, and looking at what happens to identity as society’s racial composition changes. One research project asked white college students about race, and then primed them to think about white privilege. That led them to express more racial resentment, not less. Klein adds: “The simplest way to activate someone’s identity is to threaten it, to tell them they don’t deserve what they have, to make them consider that it might be taken away. The experience of losing status — and being told your loss of status is part of society’s march to justice — is itself radicalizing.”

The political scientists John Sides, Michael Tesler and Lynn Vavreck demonstrated that in the 2016 campaign, racial resentment activated economic anxiety, not the other way around, and that the relationship between the two can be surprising. When Barack Obama was president, as the economy picked up steam, Democrats grew more optimistic and Republicans more pessimistic, but as soon as Trump won, the numbers flipped, despite the fact that economic indicators did not. And Tesler has shown that now the most racially resentful whites are the most optimistic about the economy.

The reinforcement of identities means that white liberal Democrats are “less likely than African-Americans to say that black people should be able to get ahead without any special help.” As the journalist Matthew Yglesias notes, “Democrats themselves have moved the goal posts in terms of what kind of racial views one is expected to affirm as a good liberal.” And as Democrats have moved left on race, Republicans have veered sharply right. Looking ahead, to win elections, Democrats will need their diverse coalition, meaning they will have to be even more explicit about racial and gender justice and equality, but Republicans will need to be even more responsive to a largely white coalition.

Klein makes clear, drawing in part on my work with Thomas E. Mann (which, in full disclosure, he praises), that the parties have reacted to, and weathered, the drive toward polarization in different ways. By doubling and tripling down on a more homogeneous group, Republicans have become more cultlike and resistant to compromise or moderation; Democrats, in contrast, have “an immune system of diversity and democracy.” Klein says that “if polarization has given the Democratic Party the flu, the Republican Party has caught pneumonia.”

Justin Amash, the libertarian House member, told Vox before he left the Republican Party to become an independent, “I get a lot of reactions now from Trump supporters saying, ‘Who cares how big the government is,’ or ‘Who cares how much we’re spending as long as we’re fighting against illegal immigration and pushing back against the left.’”

For those who think demography is destiny, Klein has an answer, and it is an unsettling one. Baked into the political system devised by our framers is an increasing bias toward geography and away from people. As the country grows more diverse, the representation and power in our politics will grow even less reflective of that dynamism. By 2040, 70 percent of Americans will live in 15 of our 50 states, and 50 percent will live in just 8 states. The Electoral College will be less responsive to the popular vote, and we will likely have more elections where the winner of the popular vote loses the presidency — and it could be by five million or six million or seven million votes, not the 500,000 margin for Al Gore in 2000 or the three-million margin for Hillary Clinton against Trump.

Thirty percent of Americans will elect 70 of the 100 senators. At some point, the fundamental legitimacy of the system will be challenged. And all of this is without considering the thumb on the scales provided by a Supreme Court that has turned a blind eye to racial discrimination, voter suppression and outrageous partisan gerrymandering.

What to do? Here Klein has few answers. He rightly says that our problems are more cultural than structural, but our hopes rest on some structural reforms to redress some of the imbalance. He calls for eliminating the Electoral College, eliminating the Senate filibuster, allowing Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia to become states and taking steps to make the House of Representatives more reflective of the country. Of course, even these measures, commendable though they may be, are a very heavy lift.

In the end, he offers simply the hope that as Americans become more aware of the cancer of our current identity politics, they will make efforts to reduce their own involvement. I hope he is right. I fear that, notwithstanding his thoughtful, clear and persuasive analysis, we have a long and torturous path ahead.

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'Big money' funding BC politics now mostly from taxpayers – Victoria News

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B.C. Premier John Horgan still boasts about “taking big money out of politics” by banning corporate and union donations that traditionally fuelled elections in the province.

Now the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is reminding Horgan and his main rival, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, that the source of big money has simply been switched to taxpayers.

“B.C. politicians are taking millions of dollars from taxpayers and they’re spending it on lawn signs, junk mail and attack ads for their political campaigns,” said Kris Sims, the CTF’s director for B.C. “This needs to stop. The B.C. government needs to scrap the per-vote politician welfare subsidy.”

In a new campaign announced Monday, the CTF is giving away free bumper stickers with the slogan, “STOP politician welfare!”)

The NDP campaigned to get corporate and union donations out of politics before the 2017 election, but made no mention of introducing a “temporary” subsidy for major parties calculated at $2.50 per vote received in 2017. The money is paid out to eligible parties twice a year by Elections B.C., which also administers the new rules limiting donations to $1,200 per eligible individual resident each year.

The B.C. Liberals denounced the public subsidy and voted against it, but their party has become the largest beneficiary. With the largest share of the 2017 popular vote, the B.C. Liberals collected $996,000 for their first instalment. The NDP collected $994,000 and the B.C. Greens collected $415,000 based on their 17 per cent of the popular vote.

The NDP legislation also included a provision for the parties to get half of their election-year expenses reimbursed by taxpayers. Sims estimates that will bring in an additional $11 million for the NDP, Greens and B.C. Liberals to share.

RELATED: Greens didn’t demand party subsidy, Weaver says

RELATED: Watts, Wilkinson say take subsidy, Stone says don’t

B.C. VIEWS COLUMN: Political parties loot public treasury

With more seats than the NDP government, the B.C. Liberals continue to take the lion’s share of what the CTF’s calculator currently identifies as $16.4 million divided between the three parties in the past two and a half years. It was billed as a temporary measure that Horgan promised would “disappear at the end of this parliament.” The next scheduled election is in the fall of 2021.

B.C. Liberal Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone, now the party’s housing critic, was vocal about rejecting the taxpayer subsidy when he was running for the party leadership in 2018. Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson, who eventually won the leadership narrowly against former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts, said he would take the initial subsidy and use it all to defeat the NDP-Green Party referendum to change B.C.’s voting system.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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