Jeffrey Goldfarb writes that his 2006 book The Politics of Small Things was inspired by Hannah Arendt’s idea that “politics is about people meeting each other as equals in their differences, speaking and acting together.” In his Democracy Seminar, Goldfarb invites activists to speak about the ways they act together.
Jennifer Senior writes that the reason Congress is out of touch is not that it has too many millionaires, but that it is filled with people with too many academic credentials. This is a fact central to the argument for sortition—the selection of representatives by lot rather than by election. The Arendt Center held a webinar asking the question of whether it would be good to bring randomly selected citizens into the legislative process in October.
I recently wrote about a study by Shaylyn Romney Garrett and Robert D. Putnam who argue that—contrary to popular expectations—the years in which black Americans performed best on metrics of economic and social prosperity were before the Civil Rights Movement; Garrett and Putnam show that since the 1970s, black achievement has stagnated. How does this fact require that we reassess both the Civil Rights Movement and the new Movement for Black Lives?
In a common narrative, racial progress in the United States was slow or non-existent until the Civil Rights Movement, at which time there was a sustained improvement in racial equality. Shaylyn Romney Garrett and Robert D. Putnam argue that this view is not born out by facts. On the contrary, the years in which black Americans performed best on metrics of economic and social prosperity were before the Civil Rights Movement; since the 1970s, black achievement has stagnated.
Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility has become a bestseller and a symbol, not to mention a cudgel. It promises to teach whtie people how to admit their racism and inveighs against any and all defense mechanisms—“silence, defensiveness, argumentation, certitude, and other forms of pushback”— by which white people might disclaim their racist tendencies. Coleman Hughes pushes back, writing without white guilt as a black man.
The “great evasion” is before us, writes Samuel Moyn. With the victory of Joe Biden and the defeat of Donald Trump, there is a deep desire to return to normalcy. Moyn writes that part of the great evasion is a continued worry that the threat posed by Donald Trump as to democracy. On the contrary, he argues, Trump was a weak President and “American democracy was never under systemic threat from so fickle and hamstrung a wannabe authoritarian.”