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What We’re Reading

Eyeing 2024 … the late Joan Didion, conservative … Why did the Soviet Union fall? … the questionable competence of Chinese leader Xi Jinping … An end of Christianity in America?

  • Here are this week’s must-read stories.

WHAT WE’RE READING

Bill Scher digs into the 2024 race in Politico: “Early polls suggest we’re heading for a Trump-Biden rematch. But is Trump really a lock for the GOP nomination? Is Joe Biden even running? … Did [former Vice President Mike] Pence make good use of 2021? Yes. He may have an uphill battle ahead, but he is more his own person today than one year ago. … While [Vice President Kamala] Harris’ 2021 media coverage has been almost universally negative, the coverage of the other former presidential candidate in the Cabinet — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg — has been almost universally positive, so much so that some people inside the White House have privately mused about Buttigieg being better suited than Harris to succeed Biden.” READ HERE.

Daniel J. Flynn recalls in City Journal the conservative roots of famed Californian writer Joan Didion, who died last week: “Joan Didion voted for Barry Goldwater and wrote for National Review. Her later outlook overshadowed her earlier one. But it did not change the inconvenient truth that, before Hollywood and the National Book Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters and honorary degrees from Yale and Harvard recognized Joan Didion’s brilliance, Frank Meyer — a wiry, chain-smoking, names-naming, energetic ex-Communist devising the structure and platform of the American Right from a mountain in Woodstock, New York—saw it first.” READ HERE.

Branko Milanovic commemorates 30 since the end of the Soviet Union on Substack by reviewing work on the subject: “In perhaps the most original insight, Suraska deals with the ideology of [former Soviet Union President Mikhail] Gorbachev and the first entirely Soviet-raised and bred generation that came to power in the mid-1980s. They were influenced by post-Marxist thinking where democracy or its absence were simple external (or non-essential) features: Democracy was a sham since the “real power” resides elsewhere. ‘Armed’ with this belief and the…. millenarian Marxist view that Communism represents the future of mankind, they began to see no significant contradictions between the two systems and trusted that even the introduction of democracy would not affect their positions.” READ HERE.

Noah Smith writes on Substack that Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, is probably overrated: “But other than turning a bureaucratic oligarchy into a personalistic dictatorship, what are Xi’s accomplishments, exactly? In my experience, people tend to assume that Xi is hyper-competent because: 1. There’s a general impression that the Chinese government is hyper-competent, and Xi has made himself synonymous with the Chinese government, and 2. Under Xi’s watch, China has arguably become the world’s most powerful country. But this doesn’t mean Xi actually deserves his reputation as a one-man engine of Chinese greatness.” READ HERE.

Christopher Caldwell mulls in The New York Times a comeback for paganism: “So if another civilization comes to replace Christianity, it will not be a mere negation, such as atheism or nihilism. It will be a rival civilization with its own logic — or at least its own style of moralizing. It may resemble the present-day iconoclasm that French commentators refer to as le woke. … Speech codes, elementary school consciousness-raising, corporate public service advertising — in some ways our public order is coming to resemble that of pagan Rome, where religion and morality were separated.” READ HERE.

Here’s to a better 2022.

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