In the early months of the pandemic, when anxiety had slowed my thinking to a crawl, I frequently found myself captivated by trite revelations like Uncertainty is torment and Love means living in fear. I hated my useless, corny aphorisms, but couldn’t repress them. I especially could not quit realizing, every time I refreshed Twitter or the news or the COVID-19 dashboard for my current home state of Ohio, that I was living through history. I’d glare at a bleak map or chart and tell myself: All of this will go in books someday.
Of course, I have never not been living through history. The record doesn’t stop and start. But before March 2020, I was very often too taken up with current events to consider how they would be remembered, or even how I myself would remember them. So I felt intensely grateful for the high level of granular political—now historical—detail in Nawaaz Ahmed’s debut, Radiant Fugitives, a sprawling, compelling novel set in San Francisco during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and first year in office.
Many of Ahmed’s characters are deeply invested in electoral and congressional politics; he devotes page after page to their discussions of Howard Dean’s performance in the Democratic primary or the Affordable Care Act’s odds in the Senate. This may sound sleep-inducing but, thanks to Ahmed’s vivid prose and his capacity to write heated dialogue, his dive into late-2000s politics is anything but dull. Radiant Fugitives becomes a document of the debates that influenced our present moment, filtered through character-driven fiction, not reportage; the novel is a reminder that, even when history is less than flagrantly obvious, each of us is mired in it, and shaped by it, from birth.
Ahmed underscores this point with his choice of narrator: Ishraaq, the newborn son of the novel’s protagonist, Seema. Ahmed frames Radiant Fugitives as Ishraaq’s internal monologue, beginning the moment he emerges from the womb. Functionally, though, Ishraaq is an omniscient narrator. Although he claims to have slept through Seema’s pregnancy, “interrupted only occasionally by lights and sounds from the outside,” he relates events that predate his birth—and, for that matter, his conception—in detail. He enters other characters’ heads, which is helpful, because the novel is full of interpersonal tangles. At its start, Seema, a Bay Area–based queer activist, is unexpectedly pregnant with the child of her ex-husband, Bill. Her devout sister and dying mother come to visit as her due date approaches, each with her own hopes for Seema and her child. Ishraaq comments on their behavior and ideas about religion, politics, family, and responsibility, seemingly weighing each woman’s role not only in his future but in history.
Radiant Fugitives is a systems novel, not a domestic one; Ahmed cares more about reflecting life in a society than life in a contained set of familial relationships. His quick point-of-view switches and brusque manner of delivering backstory swiftly make it clear that he is less invested in any one character than in the larger questions he examines through them. Chief among these questions is the validity of caring about politics. Seema and Bill, early Obama supporters, intertwine their identities so fully with his nascent candidacy that they “agreed they’d get married on the day [he] officially kicked off his presidential campaign.” Only months later, though, Seema finds herself discouraged watching Obama speak, worried that her candidate is “merely a cautious technocrat”; later, seated onstage at a rally, she reminds herself that, though Obama “claims hope, there is always a reality that won’t budge.”
Seema’s moment of doubt—her worry that she can’t believe in change—becomes the novel’s central issue. From the rally scene on, Ahmed takes it more or less as a given that progress is cyclical, not teleological. Given this truth, the book asks, why should anybody care about the little bits of progress they behold? Why invest time or money in politics? Why bother caring about public life?
Contemporary writers sometimes skirt this set of issues by engaging only blurrily with political life. In Christine Smallwood’s The Life of the Mind, the smart, disaffected protagonist fixates on doomy but vague images of climate crisis, which seem to fuel her ennui rather than spur her to action. There is, of course, realism in this portrait, but often the novel seems to substitute commentary on political life for investment in it—even the minor investment of providing details. Other novels block out specifics even further; I have been struck, in the past four years, by the number of writers who excise Donald Trump’s name from books that not only refer to his presidency but also wrestle with cultural issues it highlighted or exacerbated. Meg Wolitzer’s otherwise very good novel The Female Persuasion, which takes a critical look at 21st-century feminism, refers to Trump’s ascendance only as “the big terribleness,” either hoping or assuming that future readers will unanimously view it that way.
Novelists who avoid political detail may do so with an eye to the future, perhaps worrying that these developments—or their personal echoes—are too ephemeral to remain legible five or 10 years down the line. In Radiant Fugitives, Ahmed proves this concern groundless. He provides efficient context for each speech or congressional debate he draws on, then teases out the event’s effect on his characters’ lives. Bill, for example, tries to accept Seema’s insistence on raising their child alone, but when Obama delivers a speech decrying “MIA or AWOL” fathers who abandon their responsibilities, Bill finds himself compelled. On reflection, he sees that his response emerges from his personal history: His dad, a Black Panther, was in prison when Bill was born, and died there without meeting his son. Bill knows he wasn’t abandoned; still, the speech is a catalyst for him to acknowledge his desire to “fight to keep his family, the way his incarcerated father was unable to.” It matters little whether the reader remembers Obama’s family-values speeches; Ahmed uses them largely to demonstrate the capacity of less-than-nuanced political rhetoric to spark complex thought.
Often in Radiant Fugitives, public life shapes private selves by catalyzing intellectual or emotional development. Ahmed’s characters use the debates and developments of their moment to figure themselves out. Sometimes this tendency is conscious; sometimes current events provide accidental, alarming insights. In 2004, when same-sex marriage is briefly legalized in San Francisco—for just 29 days, until the state supreme court orders city officials to stop issuing marriage licenses—Seema is newly dating Bill, the first man she’s ever been involved with. She finds herself emotionally distant from the festive marital “hoopla roiling San Francisco,” and gradually recognizes that her sense of alienation comes from her changing understanding of her sexuality. Without San Francisco’s “Winter of Love,” Ahmed implies, that realization might have taken much longer to arrive.
Seema’s inability to celebrate her city’s marriage-equality breakthrough is a noticeable point of friction between her personal story and the novel’s broader historical arc. If Ahmed wished to twin them, he would, perhaps, have had Seema marry a woman at San Francisco City Hall. Instead, he intertwines them. He does the same throughout the book, placing his characters slightly outside major events. Seema, as the story unfurls, prefers to position herself in the role of witness, though she keeps volunteering for Democratic campaigns even while nine months pregnant. Her ongoing, ambivalent involvement underscores the value of civic participation even as it shows that the personal and the political, close as they may sometimes be, are never quite the same.
Radiant Fugitives suggests that public life is like the air we breathe: utterly necessary to survival, but different from—and larger than—any individual self. As we share air, so we share both a society and the great task of understanding it, which no one person can fully do. Ahmed’s characters do their best; even those who are less politically involved than Seema and Bill think deeply about the state of their country. Doing so helps them locate themselves in both society and history; participating in public life offers them not only a feeling of agency but also a means of self-analysis. Political fiction, Ahmed seems to realize, has no need to fear granularity or retreat into interiority. Writing down details, as any diary-keeper will tell you, is personal no matter what.
Roe v. Wade: How abortion came to divide US politics – CTV News
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, the issue has become one of the defining fault lines in U.S. politics, with Democratic politicians firmly supporting abortion rights and Republican lawmakers lining up in opposition.
In 1973 the lines were more blurred. Republican and Democratic voters were equally likely to say abortion should be legal, while it was easy to find Republican officials who supported abortion rights and Democrats who opposed the procedure.
So what changed?
NOT A PARTISAN ISSUE AT FIRST
Abortion on demand was legal in four states in the early 1970s, while 14 more allowed it under some circumstances.
While the Catholic Church opposed abortion, the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest evangelical denomination, was on record saying it should be allowed in many circumstances.
Neither party viewed abortion as a defining issue.
Republicans like first lady Betty Ford said the Roe decision was “a great, great decision,” while some Democrats, like a newly elected senator named Joe Biden, said the court’s ruling went “too far.”
Voters also did not see the issue along partisan lines. The General Social Survey opinion poll found in 1977 that 39% of Republicans said abortion should be allowed for any reason, compared to 35% of Democrats.
A CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT MOBILIZES
In the years that followed, conservative activists like Phyllis Schlafly seized on the issue as a threat to traditional values and enlisted evangelical churches, which had shown a new interest in politics following a series of court rulings that limited prayer in public settings.
These groups portrayed abortion as a threat to the family structure, along with broader social developments like gay rights, rising divorce rates, and women working outside of the home. For pastors and parishioners, abortion became a proxy issue for concerns about a liberalizing society, said Mary Ziegler, a legal historian at University of California-Davis.
“For many evangelicals, this was more about family and women and sex,” she said.
In 1980, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution opposing abortion, reversing its earlier position.
Republican Ronald Reagan’s presidential victory that same year gave abortion opponents a powerful ally in the White House. At the same time, women’s rights activists gained more influence within the Democratic Party and pushed leaders to support abortion rights.
But support for Roe still did not line up along party lines.
In a 1983 Senate vote, 34 Republicans and 15 Democrats voted for a proposed constitutional amendment that would have overturned the Roe decision, while 19 Republicans and 31 Democrats voted against it.
Biden was among those voting no, even though he had backed the legislation in committee the previous year.
POLITICIANS PICK SIDES – VOTERS FOLLOW
In the years that followed, the dividing lines became more apparent as political candidates found it increasingly necessary to align with activists who were becoming more influential within their parties.
Republican George H.W. Bush, an abortion opponent who had earlier supported abortion rights, won the presidency in 1988. In 1992 he was defeated by Democrat Bill Clinton, an abortion rights supporter who had earlier opposed abortion.
Since 1989, abortion-rights groups have donated $32 million to Democrats and $3 million to Republican candidates who support keeping abortion legal, according to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics. Groups that opposed abortion have given $14 million to Republicans and only $372,000 to Democrats over that time period.
Voters were slower to sort themselves out. As late as 1991, 45% of Democrats and 41% of Republicans said they supported abortion for any reason, according to the General Social Survey.
Partisan differences widened in the following years, however, as the issue became a staple of TV attack ads fundraising appeals and mass rallies by interest groups.
By the turn of the century, only 31% of Republicans supported on-demand abortion, while Democratic support remained steady at 45%, according to the General Social Survey.
BOTH SIDES DIG IN
Other opinion polls have consistently shown that most Americans support some restrictions on abortion but oppose an outright ban.
At the same time, Democrats have grown more absolute in their support for abortion rights.
Biden, who supported a ban on federal funding for most abortions in the Medicaid program for the poor for most of his political career, reversed his position as he sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
In the current Congress, only one House Democrat and one Senate Democrat voted against legislation that would make abortion legal nationwide under all circumstances. The bill failed in the Senate, but Democrats have said they plan to make it a central issue in the November 2022 elections.
Among Democratic voters, support for unrestricted abortion has jumped from 56% in 2016 to 71% last year, according to the General Social Survey, while Republican support continues to hover around 34%.
Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Ross Colvin and Lisa Shumaker
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Politics Briefing: Ottawa police preparing for protests at Canada Day celebrations – The Globe and Mail
Ottawa police say they are preparing for protests at this week’s Canada Day celebrations, and planning to balance the rights of protestors and those celebrating the holiday.
“We will not, however, accept unlawful behaviour,” Steve Bell, the interim Ottawa police chief, told a news conference on Monday.
Mr. Bell said the police are rallying public-order units, traffic teams and tow trucks and will take “decisive and lawful action” to deal with threats, occupation attempts and other unlawful action.
The city has been the scene of several large demonstrations since supporters of the self-described freedom convoy occupied the downtown core for three weeks in January and February. Now there are concerns about new anti-government protests during Canada Day.
Celebrations in the national capital have been moved from the lawn of Parliament Hill due to reconstruction work on the House of Commons and will be held at LeBreton Flats, west of the downtown core.
“We expect there to be demonstrations. This is a right of all Canadians and it will be protected. We will not, however, accept unlawful behaviour and we will not allow vehicle-based demonstration in the motor vehicle control zone,” said Mr. Bell.
The zone refers to an area of downtown Ottawa being established over the Canada Day weekend to prevent the movement of vehicle protests in the area.
”Visitors and community members will see a significant police posture and presence throughout the city,” said the interim chief.
Mr. Bell said officers from the Ottawa police have met with affected community groups in the city affected by the “illegal occupation of our streets,” and take the harm and trauma residents suffered very seriously, and have considered it in planning for Canada Day.
Police liaison officers have also tried to reach out to protest organizers about expectations for appropriate, lawful protest, he said.
Mayor Jim Watson offered a warning to prospective protesters. “There are not going to be warnings and second chances. If the law is broken, regardless of who breaks it, there will be consequences,” he told the news conference.
In late April, the Ottawa Police Services Board approved a request from Mr. Bell to appoint up to 831 RCMP officers to help with the Rolling Thunder motorcycle events, and made those appointments valid until July 4.
Meanwhile, a community group called the Ottawa People’s Commission on the Convoy Occupation officially launched Monday with the appointment of three commissioners to hold public hearings on the convoy occupation of the city earlier this year.
The commission, according to a statement, has secured the support of the Centretown Community Health Centre as its anchor agency and fundraising portal and it will deliver a final report within a year. The OPC will be funded by donations from the public, foundations, businesses, unions and local agencies.
“We need this independent, non-partisan inquiry to hear from ordinary citizens, advocacy organizations and social agencies, business owners, workers and others whose lives were turned upside down during the occupation,” said commission spokesman Ken Rubin.
With a file from The Canadian Press.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter sign-up page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
GOOD GRADES FOR CANADA’S HANDLING OF COVID-19: NEW STUDY – Canada handled the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and weathered the ensuing upheaval better than several other nations with comparable health-care and economic infrastructure, a new study suggests. Story here.
CONVICTED MURDERERS SEEK PAROLE AFTER COURT RULING – Several men convicted of multiple murders are pressing claims for early chances at parole, after the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s life-without-parole law, retroactive to the legislation’s 2011 enactment. Story here.
LABRETON CONCERNED ABOUT CPC DIRECTION – A former Conservative Senate leader is expressing concern about the direction Pierre Poilievre is taking the party, worrying the Tories might be reaching the point of “fracturing beyond repair.” Story here from Global News.
FREELAND TOUTS BALANCE IN INFLATION STRATEGY – Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says she must strike a balance between helping Canadians suffering from the effects of inflation and pursuing a policy of fiscal restraint – or risk making the cost of living problem worse. Story here from CBC.
TASK FORCE STRUCK TO DEAL WITH IMMIGRATION/PASSPORT ISSUES -The federal government has created a special task force to help tackle the major delays with immigration applications and passport processing that have left Canadians frustrated. Story here from CTV.
MENDICINO “DEEPLY COMMITTED” TO RCMP OVERSIGHT – The federal Public Safety Minister says he is “deeply committed” to enhancing oversight of the RCMP by strengthening the role of the national police force’s management advisory board. Story here.
BECK TO LEAD SASKATCHEWAN NDP – Saskatchewan’s NDP has chosen Carla Beck to be its new leader, making her the first woman to lead the party in 90 years. Story here.
FORMER LEADER DONATED $300,000 TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR TORIES – Ches Crosbie, the former leader of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Progressive Conservative Party, donated $300,000 to the party last year – more than 40 per cent of its overall income – as it waged a drawn-out and controversial election campaign that was thrown into chaos by the COVID-19 pandemic. A political scientist, however, says the situation is further proof that Newfoundland and Labrador’s elections rules are in need of an overhaul. Story here from CBC.
TRUDEAU AND JOHNSON COMPARE PLANES – ‘Very, very modest’: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson vs Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on whose private jet is smaller. Story here from The Guardian.
CONSERVATIVE LEADERSHIP RACE
CAMPAIGN TRAIL – Scott Aitchison is in the Ontario community of Corbyville on Monday taking part in the Conservative Leadership Meet & Greet hosted by the Hastings-Lennox and Addington Conservative Electoral District Association. Patrick Brown is in also in Corbyville, Belleville and Richmond Hill on Monday. Jean Charest is also in Belleville on Monday. There was no campaign information available for Roman Baber, Leslyn Lewis and Pierre Poilievre.
MACKAY BACKS POILIEVRE – Pierre Poilievre says, in a tweet, that Elmer MacKay is backing him for the Conservative leadership. Mr. MacKay was a cabinet minister under former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. He is the father of Peter MacKay, who was a cabinet minister under Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, and who also sought the Conservative leadership in 2020. “Pierre’s message of affordability and freedom is resonating widely,” Elmer MacKay said in a statement attached to Mr. Poilievre’s tweet. “I know he has what it takes to be our next Prime Minister.”
THIS AND THAT
The House of Commons is not sitting again until Sept. 19. The Senate is to resume sitting on Sept. 20
DUCLOS IN MONTREAL – Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos was in Montreal to make a funding announcement on long-term care in Quebec.
FORD MEETS TORY – In Toronto, Premier Doug Ford met with Toronto Mayor John Tory at Queen’s Park, with the pair scheduled to hold a joint news conference after their discussions.
GOULD IN WINNIPEG – Families Minister Karina Gould is to make an announcement, in Winnipeg, with Manitoba’s Education Minister Wayne Ewasko on increasing licensed child-care spaces and the implementation of a wage grid for the child-care work force.
ALGHABRA IN OSHAWA – Transport Minister Omar Alghabra was in Oshawa, Ont., to announce about $14 -million for an expansion project at the port of Oshawa.
On Monday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Hannah Sung, co-founder of Media Girlfriends, host of the podcast At The End of the Day and BTS fan, explains what makes the superstar K-pop group BTS so popular and why they’re so influential. BTS announced recently that they are taking a temporary break as a group and pursuing individual projects. This moment was a big deal for their millions of fans worldwide, the company that brings in billions of dollars managing them and for South Korea, which considers its members cultural ambassadors for the country. The Decibel is here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
In Elmau, Germany, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, attending the Group of Seven summit, was scheduled to hold meetings with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as well as Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio. The Prime Minister was also scheduled to participate in the G7 Working Session, entitled The World in Conflict: Exchange on Ukraine as well as a working luncheon with G7 Leaders and international partner countries and organizations, and to participate in the official family photo with G7 Leaders and international partner countries and organizations. The Prime Minister was also scheduled to meet with Senegal President Macky Sall, and to participate in a working session with G7 Leaders and international partner countries and organizations, entitled Stronger Together: Addressing Food Security and Advancing Gender Equality. Beyond that, the Prime Minister was scheduled to meet with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then meet with Joko Widodo, the president of Indonesia. And the Prime Minister’s summit day was expected to end with a dinner with G7 Leaders and international partner countries and organizations hosted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
No schedules released for party leaders.
Fifty-two per cent of Canadians are pessimistic about the future of Canada, a considerably higher finding than responses in recent years, according to new research by the Angus Reid Institute. Meanwhile, in the Conservative leadership race, MP Pierre Poilievre continues is the most appealing option to 26 per cent of Canadians, followed closely by former Quebec premier Jean Charest (21 per cent). Details here.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how francophones outside Quebec became the minority English Canada forgot about: “The Quebec government of Premier François Legault has been criticized, and with good reason, for invoking the notwithstanding clause to curtail the rights of the province’s English-speakers in his flagship language reform, Bill 96. It’s no excuse – as Mr. Legault sometimes falsely suggests – but francophones outside of Quebec often face an even less hospitable reality. Without succumbing to issue-dodging whataboutism, or pretending that two minority communities wronged somehow makes it all right, it’s worth reflecting on the perennial battle for survival waged mostly under the radar in Shediac and Sudbury and St. Boniface. Too often, a basic level of respect eludes French-speaking communities in the Rest of Canada.”
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on how it’s time for Canada to get serious about defence: “The Liberal government’s $4.9-billion commitment to modernizing NORAD represents an important step in preparing Canada for this increasingly dangerous world. But it’s only a start. With threats to the left of us in the Indo-Pacific, to the right in Europe, and with Russia to our north, this country must get serious about defence.”
Richard French (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how the PMO wields too much power in Ottawa: “Similar criticisms have been heard in Ottawa since the arrival of the current government. But perhaps there is a novelty here. I would argue that, while the centralization of power in Westminster prime ministerships always reflects the personal character and desire of the person in the office, in our case today, the person in the office does not want to dominate his government. He wants the Prime Minister’s Office to dominate it for him and is quite content to be its creature. What we have in Ottawa is the Justin Trudeau Regency.”
Fahad Razak, Arthur Slutsky and David Naylor (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how we need new strategies to tackle COVID-19 this fall: “But governments also need a new storyline – one that celebrates the effects of vaccines in preventing serious disease and death, while acknowledging the declining marginal yields of repeated administration of current vaccines when it comes to preventing infection with later variants. That shift explains evolving vaccine mandates and underpins the case for vaccines currently in development and regulatory review. It’s also counterproductive to talk about two doses as “full vaccination” – the number of vaccine doses needed for protection against serious COVID-19 varies by age, health status and circulating variant. Public-health restrictions must also evolve. Not because of the lies being told about their past ineffectiveness, but because every effort should be made to avoid broad-brush restrictions on public gatherings, as well as school and business shutdowns.”
Vaughn Palmer (The Vancouver Sun) on why B.C. Premier John Horgan may defy speculation and lead the B.C. NDP into the next provincial election: “One can readily imagine why Horgan might have decided to go. He’s been through a lot on the health front. He’d be leaving the NDP in a strong position in the opinion polls and with two years to regroup under a new leader. But it is easy to come up with a rationale for a decision to stay. He loves the job, leastways he has done so up to this point. There’s no one waiting in the wings with his communication skills and populist touch. The government faces huge challenges with inflation, the crisis in health care, and public sector bargaining. His rivalry with B.C. Liberal leader Kevin Falcon is personal. Horgan would like to beat him, not have people think that he walked away from a fight. The latter scenario is the preferred one for most New Democrats.”
Politics Podcast: What The Politics Of Abortion Look Like Now – FiveThirtyEight
In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew discusses the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn constitutional abortion rights. Which states now have abortion bans in place, how have Americans across the political spectrum responded with protests and celebrations, and how could this decision impact the midterm elections?
The podcast also analyzed two more notable opinions released by the Supreme Court in the last few days: the ruling on gun restrictions that has significant implications for gun control in five other states and a ruling on prayer at public schools.
Finally, the team does a quick tour of the biggest primary elections in Illinois, New York, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Utah on Tuesday.
You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.
The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.
Stock market news live updates: Stock turn lower following last week's rebound – Yahoo Canada
7 Amazing Dark Sky National Parks – AARP
Emerging Markets Outlook: Investment is strong, but uncertainty remains – Logistics Management
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Europe kicks off vaccination programs | All media content | DW | 27.12.2020 – Deutsche Welle
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