Saturday, January 16, 2021

How we got here, the stakes and where we go now (in Washington Monthly)



The United States, which was a state before it came up with an argument for being a nation as well, has always been vulnerable to dissolution. An accidental alliance of stateless nations -- the regional cultures described in American Nations -- it had to invent a national story to paper over the massive (and enduring) differences between its component sections (a story told in Union.)

As the social contract our liberal democratic system relies on has been weakened by decades of drift into more extreme forms of individual liberty -- the story told in American Character -- it's now under direct attack again by authoritarian ethnonationalism. It threatens to destroy both the federation and the republic.

How did this happen? What is the nature of the problem? How do we respond to reverse the damage. My thoughts laid out in the new issue of Washington Monthly, written in early December when we were already trundling toward the attempted coup on January 6. 

For more, please consider the three books of the American Nations trilogy, starting with Union.

Thanks to Real Clear Politics for plugging the article earlier this week and to Monthly editors Paul Glastis and Daniel Block for their suggestions and improvements to the piece.

My last print edition story for Washington Monthly was this review of John Keane's The New Despotism.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Senator Angus King on the insurrection and accountability

I spoke with Senator Angus King (I-ME) last night about the attack on the Capitol and his views on how to ensure accountability for those who incited it, and not just the president. 

He also told of his personal experiences at the Capitol on Jan. 6, including his reluctance to bunker with a horde of Senators and their staff, some of whom don't like to follow Covid-19 health guidance. 

The interview is in today's Portland Press Herald and online.

Senator Susan Collins and Rep. Jared Golden have declined interview requests. For Rep. Chellie Pingree's views on accountability, see this piece on the House resolution to investigate members of the sedition caucus.





Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Impeachment: Maine's delegation, save Collins, demands Trump's immediate removal

Three of Maine's four Congressional representatives are now on record demanding Trump's immediate removal from office for his role in the insurrection and terrorist attacks against Congress and the U.S. Capitol last week.

Senator Angus King (I) weighed in today in a statement blasting Trump as a danger to the republic and calling out the 147 members of Congress's "sedition caucus" who, hours after the deadly attack, voted to, in effect, end democracy by overturning a democratic election lost by the president. Details in this Press Herald story from a few hours ago.

Senator Susan Collins, New England's only remaining Republican Congressional representative, has said she will not be commenting on impeachment because of her role as a "juror" in the Senate trial that will follow.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME01) was ahead of the rest of the delegation, calling for Trump's removal almost immediately after the attack and co-sponsoring a House resolution to investigate the sedition caucus and consider removal via the 14th Amendment. Details in this Press Herald story.

Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME02) didn't reveal his position until last night, but when he did it was a direct and unequivocal condemnation of the president. (Golden just won a second term in a district that went for Trump by 7 points.)

[Update, 1/13/21: Pingree and Golden voted for impeachment this afternoon. Trump became the first president in history to be impeached twice with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in a 232-197 vote.]


Thursday, January 7, 2021

Post-coup attempt, Sen. King and Rep. Pingree support Trump removal via 25th Amendment

A day after President Trump incited a mob to attack the Capitol in Washington, triggering five deaths and the evacuation of the building, half of Maine's Congressional delegation -- that's Senator King and Rep. Pingree -- supports the president's removal. Rep. Golden is taking a considered approach and Sen. Collins office isn't saying what her position is.

Details in my dispatch this evening in the Portland Press Herald.

Also today, because one major ongoing crisis is not enough, an update on the pandemic crisis here in Maine: record Covid-19 hospitalizations this week in the state, including all-time highs at MaineMed, SMHC Medical Center, and York Hospital.

[Update, 1/8/20: As 25th Amendment looks unlikely, attention turned today to impeachment, which appears to be inevitable in the House. But three of Maine's four Congressional representatives aren't -- or aren't yet -- saying where they stand. Details in this evening's Press Herald dispatch.]

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Four dams, the Kennebec River and the future of US Atlantic salmon in the balance

While the pandemic has been raging across the world, a high-stakes battle over the future of one of Maine's largest river systems has been playing out in an obscure federal online docket, one with the future of Atlantic salmon in the United States in the balance.

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram I wrote about the relicensing battle over one of four dams on the lower Kennebec River that stand between salmon, shad, alewives and the pristine habitat of the Sandy River in Western Maine which, oddly enough, is where I learned to swim and spent a lot of my summers staying cool in as a kid. The struggle is between Brookfield Renewable, a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, the $100 billion Canadian venture capital firm, (which wants to do technical fixes to let the fish better pass the dams) and the state of Maine, conservationists, and recreational fishing interests (which want at least one and preferably two or three of the dams to be torn down.)

Details in the story.


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Regarding Maine on the occasion of its 200th anniversary of statehood, in the Boston Globe



Maine turned 200 this year, but the Bicentennial celebrations were cancelled by the pandemic, with Gov. Mills spending the official birthday, March 15, advising Mainers to lockdown to prevent the spread of the then barely understood coronavirus.

I wrote a six-part series for the Maine Sunday Telegram on statehood's meaning that wrapped up just as Covid-19 spread into the state back in March, but I also wanted to present some key points to an external audience, one in Massachusetts in particular for reasons readers of The Lobster Coast will quickly ascertain. So in this week's Boston Sunday Globe Ideas section, I had this essay on Maine's experience as a colony of a colony, how it shaped our culture and people, and the ways in which the pandemic and other global developments may shake up the postcolonial trajectory my native state has long been on. Hope you enjoy.

This is my first byline in the Globe, but in September I spoke to Ideas staff writer David Sharfenberg about the battle for the national "soul" of the U.S., the topic of my most recent book, Union.

Update, 10/30/20: Bloomberg's Boston bureau has a radio show and podcast, Bloomberg Baystate Business, and hosts Tom Moroney and Joe Shortsleeve kindly had me on the show today to talk about the phenomena described in the Globe piece. My portion starts at 0:50:32.





Wednesday, December 9, 2020

UNION named a Best Non-fiction Book of 2020 by the Christian Science Monitor



My thanks to the Christian Science Monitor's book reviewers for naming Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood as a Best Non-Fiction Book of 2020.

The Monitor's review of the book can be found here. It concludes: "The stakes are nothing short of determining how a nation thinks about itself, how it teaches posterity about itself. In “Union,” that battle sprawls out of the narrow confines of academia and embroils the entire country – and the fight is ongoing."

Also pleased to share the list with friend Arial Sabar, who also had a book out this year, and a former source when I was focused on the oceans beat, Caro Safina.

For more on Union, start here.