The September 23 issue was excellent, but I have two comments. First, on “Sea Change” (print only): As a climate refugee from Miami Beach, I would point out that “barriers to shield just Miami-Dade County from sea-level rise” are not feasible. South Florida is built on porous limestone. Floodwaters do not merely wash in from the sea; they rise from under one’s feet.
Another statement worth flagging appears in Robin D.G. Kelley’s excellent article “Don’t Look Now!” He writes that the efforts after the Civil War, specifically the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, were “the boldest attempt to extend democracy to all Americans before the 1960s.” Surely he cannot overlook the 19th Amendment, which finally enfranchised half the nation’s adult population in 1920—a group that was unaffected by the 15th.
Katha Pollitt’s column “Break’s Over” [Sept. 23], quoting Donald Trump’s attack on four progressive congresswomen—“They don’t love our country…. If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it”—reminds me that it is the 50th anniversary of Merle Haggard’s song attacking anti-war and leftist political protesters, “The Fightin’ Side of Me.” It apparently was the first time the phrase “If you don’t love it, leave it” appeared in pop culture.
On the brighter side, it is also the 80th anniversary of the first performance (on CBS Radio) of the moving cantata “Ballad for Americans.” A celebration of ethnic, racial, cultural, and religious inclusion and tolerance—the antithesis of Trumpism—the work was first recorded by Paul Robeson (1940) and was widely performed during the 1940s.
The Last Dance?
Re “The Wallflowers at the Dance,” by Jeet Heer [Sept. 23]: This is an outstanding analysis and synthesis, one that gathers a wide view of the role of think tanks (especially “liberal” ones) and charts the way they have been turned over to corporate interests. The author even provides a guarded bit of realistic optimism that the think tanks might get with a new program. Thank you for this work, Mr. Heer!Robert Borneman
There is no question that think tanks have had a long and mostly backroom history. Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting has described the Brookings Institution variously as conservative or center right, which seems fair, given that its donors include JPMorgan Chase, CENTCOM, and Qatar.
The fact is, the neoliberal version of the Democratic Party surrendered the responsible and progressive policies of the New Deal and the Great Society long ago, choosing instead to scurry behind the neocon march to the distant right while trying to keep a safe distance. Whether Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders (or both?) ends up on the ticket, I doubt they’ll need corporate-funded think tanks to help carry out their agenda of wresting political power from corporate interests.
A footnote: One thing that struck me about this piece was the conspicuous absence of the Economic Policy Institute, probably the closest thing we have to a genuine New Deal think tank in the country.