Democratic candidates for president try to appeal to an ideological audience that pays attention to early campaigns, but will that hurt the candidates in the longer term?
Summer hit full stride in July, but backyard barbecues faced stiff competition from indoor pursuits: Netflix released the third season of its nostalgia-fueled hit Stranger Things on July 4 and reported more than 40 million households streamed the show during the first week.
The massive viewership broke streaming records, but a Netflix account wasn’t necessary to watch plenty of other strange things unfold during July.
In Washington, D.C., some Democratic lawmakers accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of being too moderate—a strange charge the congresswoman from California doesn’t often face.
Pelosi hit back at four freshmen congresswomen who criticized her for passing a border bill they didn’t deem sufficient. Pelosi questioned their reach of influence beyond Twitter. One of the four freshmen—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.—said Pelosi’s comments were disrespectful to “newly elected women of color.”
What sounded like a silly fight revealed serious fissures in the Democratic coalition ahead of the 2020 elections, as the party battles over how far left it will go: Its leaders know that moderate and independent voters will be crucial to electoral victories. But far-left lawmakers, like the four congresswomen Pelosi sparred with, have grabbed headlines with a slew of controversial statements and proposals.
Republican lawmakers likely didn’t mind the open display of disunity in the Democratic Party. But the dynamic took a stranger turn on July 14 when President Trump seemed to aim a series of tweets at the four minority congresswomen. He said they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came … you can’t leave fast enough.”
Three of the four congresswomen were born and raised in America. The fourth is a naturalized U.S. citizen. In a flash, the Democratic Party was united again—at least for the moment.
One could imagine a Washington version of Stranger Things, though it would be difficult to envision what’s next. One storyline does seem clear: The line between policy offensive and personal offensiveness—on both sides—seems to be fading even farther into distant realms.
In a closer realm, the border crisis continued to broil in the summer heat. Vice President Mike Pence visited border stations on July 12, including a location in McAllen, Texas, that was packed with adult males. Pence acknowledged conditions in the overflowing temporary facility weren’t acceptable, and he called on Congress to fix the immigration system.
Congress does need to act, but if that sounds like a rerun of an old episode in a yearslong debate, it’s hard to see a new season on the horizon.
Some Americans broke from politics to celebrate the Fourth of July, just as Nike scrapped its release of a limited-edition sneaker emblazoned with a 1770s American flag. NFL star and activist Colin Kaepernick reportedly complained the flag came from an era when slavery was allowed in America.
That’s true, but Betsy Ross, the Philadelphia seamstress usually remembered for her flag-making during the American Revolution, was also a Quaker—a religious group that moved to prohibit its members from holding slaves in the late 1770s.
Two replicas of the flag she’s credited with creating were prominently displayed during President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.
Corporate activism reached another strange level with another limited-edition product: transgender-themed Oreos. The snack giant gave away the cookies at a World Pride event in New York City, but reported it didn’t have immediate plans to sell them in stores.
Still, Oreo’s Twitter account encouraged consumers to share the pronoun of their preferred gender and imprinted the snacks with a range of possibilities: “she/her,” “he/him,” and “they/them.” The company packaged the Oreos in the colors of the transgender flag.
Customers can buy a transgender flag on Amazon.com, but they won’t be able to buy several books by a certain author anymore: Amazon officials confirmed on July 3 they had removed several titles by Joseph Nicolosi, an author known for his writings on homosexuality.
Nicolosi, who died in 2017, advocated reparative therapy—a form of counseling aimed at helping people reduce or change same-sex attractions. The therapy has been controversial, including among some Christians who don’t think it’s the best approach to helping those who battle same-sex attractions.
But banning books based on one approach to a problem could lead to banning books based on any approach to the same problem—and perhaps any titles that hold to a Biblical view of sexuality. Christopher Yuan, the evangelical author of the recently released Holy Sexuality and the Gospel, called Amazon’s move “chilling.”
Also chilling: Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed it had increased its uranium enrichment level to 4.5 percent and had fulfilled its threat to exceed the limit set in a 2015 deal with global powers.
Meanwhile, the Russian Orthodox Church debated banning its priests from blessing weapons of mass destruction. Religion News Service reported that Russian Orthodox priests have formally blessed surface-to-air missiles, nuclear submarines, tanks, and fighter jets.
A church committee has recommended priests bless soldiers rather than weapons, but some object to the change. Vsevolod Chaplin, an influential priest, told a Russian newspaper that nuclear weapons were the country’s “guardian angels” to protect Russians “from enslavement by the West.”
A debate over whether priests should sanctify weapons of mass destruction? Stranger things have happened.