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Articles by Jacob Hamburger

De l’apocalypse à la catastrophe

25 days ago

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L’Humanité m’a demandé une chronique encore sur le résultat de l’élection du 3 novembre. Retrouvez ci-dessous l’article publié le 9 novembre dans le journal.

Joe Biden sera président. Les médias ont hésité à le confirmer – comme M. Biden lui-même – et Donald Trump déclare qu’il contestera les résultats de l’élection, mais le résultat est assuré. Aucun recompte ne peut produire une victoire de Trump à la dernière minute. Si Trump avait l’intention de rester au pouvoir par un coup d’État, il semble avoir oublié de le planifier. Après quatre ans d’une présidence Trump, les Américains en ont eu assez. Et malgré la confusion induite par le décompte interminable des votes, la marge en faveur de Biden est relativement

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2020 dans l’ombre de 2000

November 3, 2020

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Chaque lundi avant le 3 novembre, je publie une tribune dans l’Humanité sur l’élection présidentielle aux États-Unis. Je republie le cinquième article, publié le 2 novembre, aujourd’hui, le jour de l’élection.

Il y a vingt ans, à l’issue du scrutin présidentiel de 2000, la Cour Suprême a exigé de l’État de Floride qu’il cesse de recompter des votes disputés, assurant ainsi la victoire de George W. Bush contre le Démocrate Al Gore. C’était la première fois, à l’époque contemporaine, qu’un président accédait à la Maison blanche sans gagner une majorité de voix, ce que la plupart des Américains pensaient impossible. L’élection de 2000 a montré que les irrégularités produites par notre système électoral décentralisé

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Georgia on My Mind

October 28, 2020

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Chaque lundi avant le 3 novembre, je publie une tribune dans l’Humanité sur l’élection présidentielle aux États-Unis. Chaque tribune sera republiée ici le mercredi. Voici le quatrième article, publié le 26 octobre.

Le jour de l’ouverture du vote dans l’État de Géorgie, le 12 octobre, on a vu presque immédiatement sur les réseaux sociaux des témoignages de personnes qui ont dû patienter jusqu’à douze heures pour voter. Ce n’est pas un accident. Dans les grandes villes comme Atlanta – largement Afro-américaine – le gouvernement d’état républicain a veillé à ce qu’il n’y ait pas assez de lieux de vote, là où dans les comtés ruraux (c’est-à-dire blancs), ils abondaient. La réduction du nombre bureaux de votes dans les métropoles

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New Article: The Supreme Court Is Smothering American Democracy

October 21, 2020

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In addition to my ongoing column on the 2020 elections in L’Humanité, I have a new piece up in Jacobin on the Supreme Court’s, inspired by Tocqueville’s chapter on l’esprit légiste.

Here’s a preview:
After spending nine months traveling throughout the United States in 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote a book to reassure the French ruling class that it had nothing to fear from democracy. Tocqueville’s definition of democracy was not exactly radical by today’s standards. Its main feature was an “equality of conditions,” under which no person was considered inherently inferior by birth, law, or custom — the type of formal equality that later radicals like Karl Marx excoriated as

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Ces Démocrates qui ne veulent pas gouverner

October 21, 2020

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Chaque lundi avant le 3 novembre, je publie une tribune dans l’Humanité sur l’élection présidentielle aux États-Unis. Chaque tribune sera republiée ici le mercredi. Voici le troisième article, publié le 19 octobre.

« Ces auditions ont été les meilleures de ma carrière. Je vous remercie, Monsieur, pour votre justesse et cet échange constructif. Cela me donne de l’espoir. » Ces mots ne sont pas ceux d’Amy Coney Barrett – juriste catholique d’extrême-droite nommée à la Cour Suprême – ni d’un membre du Parti républicain quelconque, mais de Dianne Feinstein, sénatrice démocrate. Elle les a prononcés avant d’embrasser, sans masque, Lindsey Graham, président républicain du comité judiciaire du Sénat. Graham

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Trump, prodige politique ?

October 14, 2020

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Chaque lundi avant le 3 novembre, je publie une tribune dans l’Humanité sur l’élection présidentielle aux États-Unis. Chaque tribune sera republiée ici le mercredi. Voici le deuxième article, publié le 12 octobre. 

Lorsque Donald Trump a annoncé qu’il avait contracté la Covid-19, Rachel Maddow – présentatrice du réseau MSNBC considéré comme proche du Parti démocrate – s’est empressée d’écrire sur Twitter, « Que Dieu bénisse le Président et sa femme…. Priez pour leur rétablissement rapide et complet ». Pour les bien-pensants du centre, imprégnés de moralité chrétienne, il est devenu à la mode de vouloir montrer de la compassion pour une droite qui n’en a aucune. Comme l’a dit Michelle Obama, « Quand ils s’enfoncent, on

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Le fleuve qui déborde de son lit

October 7, 2020

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Chaque lundi avant le 3 novembre, je publie une tribune dans l’Humanité sur l’élection présidentielle aux États-Unis. Chaque tribune sera republiée ici le mercredi, avec l’accord du journal. Voici le premier article, publié le 5 octobre. 

Tocqueville avait vu juste : l’élection présidentielle est un « moment de crise nationale » aux États-Unis. Et plus encore en 2020 qu’en 1832, puisque les Américains se trouvent à quelques semaines du scrutin dans un état d’« agitation ». Abandonnés pendant la pandémie par les gouvernements fédéral et étatiques, des millions d’Américains ignorent comment ils vont payer leurs loyers ou envoyer leurs enfants à l’école. Des militants antiracistes sont encore dans la rue, menacés par

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Focus : Clemenceau en Amérique

September 8, 2020

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Nous revenons la semaine prochaine de notre pause estivale avec une série de publications à l’occasion de la parution de Georges Clemenceau : Lettres d’Amérique. Cette collection d’écrits du jeune Clemenceau, correspondant du journal Le Temps aux États-Unis dans les années 1860, paraît en français pour la première fois grâce à Patrick Weil et Thomas Macé. Comme l’écrit Bruce Ackerman dans a préface (dont nous proposons la version originale, inédite en anglais), Clemenceau se présente dans ces lettres comme un observateur de la démocratie en Amérique à la hauteur de Tocqueville : un admirateur de Thaddeus Stevens et des Républicains radicaux, et un ennemi farouche de tous les impérialismes de l’époque. Comme l’écrit

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Contact Tocqueville 21

July 13, 2020

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Our apologies to anyone who has recently tried to contact us through the email address [email protected] We have been unable to access this account for some time now, but we have just recently fixed the problem and will be checking the address regularly. Thanks for your understanding.

Nos excuses à celles et ceux qui ont tenté de nous contacter à l’adresse électronique [email protected] Nous avions perdu accès à ce compte, qui est réactivé et que nous regardons désormais régulièrement. Merci de votre compréhension.

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Ceci n’est pas la révolution de Bernie Sanders

July 4, 2020

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Suite à la publication de mon dernier post sur les manifestations Black Lives Matter aux États-Unis, Christophe Deroubaix, journaliste à l’Humanité, m’a interrogé sur les luttes sociales et antiracistes, sur Tocqueville, et sur les polémiques autour du « privilège blanc ». Le texte de l’entretien est reproduit ici, dont aussi une dernière question qui a dû être coupé de la version publié dans le journal.

Christophe Deroubaix : Comment s’articule, dans le débat qui se déroule aux États-Unis, la question « raciale » et la question « sociale » ?

Jacob Hamburger : À gauche, certains ont eu tendance à opposer ces deux questions. On entend parfois des critiques selon lesquelles la lutte en faveur d’un État

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Focus : Slow Démocratie

June 23, 2020

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L’« euphorie » de la mondialisation est derrière nous. Après quatre décennies d’exaltation d’un monde plus ouvert, prospère, interdépendant et interconnecté – une terre plate, une planète sans frontières – force est de constater que cette vision était une mirage. Nous qui avons vécu la crise financière de 2008, la crise démocratique à partir de 2016 et les multiples crises écologiques et sanitaires à venir, ne pourrons jamais revenir à l’heureuse mondialisation des années 1990.

Si David Djaïz commence son livre Slow Démocratie avec une telle observation, ce n’est pas la fin de son histoire. Pour Djaïz, tout le monde sait que la mondialisation produit des crises calamiteuses, mais cependant, on refuse d’en tirer « une grande

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« Si l’Amérique éprouve jamais de grandes révolutions… »

June 15, 2020

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A few months ago, after we ran a series of reflections on mass protests in 2019, I wrote a post on why the United States had not seen the kind of spontaneous uprisings that had broken out in places like France, Hong Kong, Lebanon, or Algeria. Now, in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Americans have not only joined this wave of revolt, but have also inspired solidarity marches around the world—likely in many places the first large political actions that have taken place during the Covid-19 pandemic. My hasty conclusion in the early months of 2020 was that Tocqueville’s account of why “Great Revolutions will be rare” in the United States was not a particularly helpful

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Politics Gone Viral

April 2, 2020

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Like I assume many are feeling these days, I’ve been somewhat at a loss to write about the Covid-19 crisis and what it might mean for contemporary democratic societies. This is partially because of how uncertain everything remains in terms of how the disease works and how to fight it, and in terms of the political implications. Last week, though, a French journalist reached out to me for a few informal thoughts on the fate of the Bernie Sanders campaign after its disappointing results in March, and how the virus might affect the upcoming presidential election. I’ve expanded on my response to him for the purposes of this post.

It’s hard to formulate a clear answer to your questions with everything that’s going on. Before it

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“Why Great Revolutions Will Become Rare”

January 27, 2020

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Judging by the various mass protest movements that have erupted around the world in recent years (see the rest of our series on global revolt here), there have been no shortage of potential triggers for something similar in the United States. One common reason for these uprisings have been government policies imposing increased costs on basic needs of many working- and middle-class people: even modest raises in the price of fuel in France, subway fare in Chile, or electronic messaging in Lebanon can be seen as a major indignity in the context of historic economic inequality. The other main thread is a sense of democratic impunity, a feeling that there is a political class that is wholly unresponsive to the

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New Article: Voting is a Right, Not a Privilege

January 19, 2020

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Jacobin asked me to write a short article in response to the Florida Supreme Court’s decision that a 2018 constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to formerly incarcerated people does not apply to those who have not paid off all court fees, fines, and other financial obligations. I used this as a springboard to talk about how Democrats—who ought to be the party of universal suffrage, whether they realize it or not—might push for radical democracy in 2020 and going forward. You can read the article here.

Photo credit: Kheel Center, Cornell University, via Flickr , CC BY 2.0

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Révolte !

January 6, 2020

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The 2010s ended much as they had began: just as 2011 was the year of the Arab Spring, the Spanish indignados, and Occupy Wall Street, 2019 may well be remembered as the year of the gilets jaunes, the anti-extradition movement in Hong Kong, and the wave of mass protests from the Arab world to Latin America and the Caribbean. Just under a decade ago, with the outbreak of revolts in Tunis and Cairo, it looked like digital communication technology was ushering in a new era of democratic action. By popular consensus today, this was a pipe dream, as evidenced by the repressive turn in Egypt under El-Sisi, the persistence of austerity throughout Europe and the United States, and scandals demonstrating destructive influence of social media on

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New article: The Fury in France

December 10, 2019

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I’ve been holding off on writing about the current strikes because the New York Times was kind enough to ask me to write an opinion piece on the subject, which just appeared today. I try to answer the question of what it would look like for the strikes, allied with gilets jaunes protesters, to deliver a meaningful political blow to Macron. My answer is probably unsatisfying, as is inevitable for this sort of speculation, but I try to at least lay out the political stakes going forward for Macron’s presidency.

In other news, Pauline Graulle of Médiapart has a piece out today that hits some similar themes, and Cole Stangler’s excellent reporting on the Marseille municipal campaign for Jacobin reveals an example of the

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Du jugement politique

November 22, 2019

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This is only a mini-installment in our ongoing series on close-reading Tocqueville, but it’s a good example of why we do it in the first place. On Twitter, Ivanka Trump posted what appeared to be a quote from Democracy in America suggesting that the impeachment of her father is a sign of the nation’s moral decline:
“A decline of public morals in the United States will probably be marked by the abuse of the power of impeachment as a means of crushing political adversaries or ejecting them from office.”
Unsurprisingly, this text is not from Tocqueville, but rather from a Wall Street Journal opinion piece defending the president. It does appear though to be a mistranslation from the final sentence of the chapter in the first volume

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Cross-post at the LPE Blog

November 8, 2019

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Just a brief announcement that in case you missed Bill Novak and Steve Sawyer’s manifesto for “Neodemocracy” here at Tocqueville 21, you can also read it on the excellent Law and Political Economy Blog. Much in line with Bill and Steve’s essay, LPE is devoted to reimagining law for a democratic, post-neoliberal (or rather, post-law-and-economics) future.

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American Aristocracy

October 21, 2019

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On a few occasions since we’ve been doing this blog (see here, here, and here) I’ve attempted to read Tocqueville against the interpretation of his work that has long been popular on the American and French right since the Cold War. If there’s one passage in Democracy in America that has been in the back of my mind when doing so, it’s the chapter entitled “How Aristocracy Could Emerge from Industry” (II.2.20, Comment l’aristocratie pourrait sortir de l’industrie). Aside from his long chapter on race and slavery in the first volume, this is Tocqueville’s most direct confrontation with the question of economic inequality in America. For this reason, it has been high on my list for our series of close-readings.

In order to

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Revue de Presse

October 6, 2019

[unable to retrieve full-text content]We’re taking a break this week from our Revue de Presse, and may be reevaluating the format. A bientôt !
The post Revue de Presse appeared first on Tocqueville21.

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Migration « en même temps »

September 24, 2019

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It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about French politics, but seeing as my day job is now working in immigration law, I can’t help but comment briefly on some recent comments by Emmanuel Macron. Last week, at a meeting of LREM deputies, Macron stressed the need to “look squarely in the face” the subject of immigration heading into the second half of his term. The president elaborated that the question for his young party was “to see whether or not we want to be a bourgeois party. The bourgeois don’t have any problems with [immigration]: they don’t encounter it, while the working classes live with it.” 

This is not exactly new rhetoric for Macron. Critics have taken him to task for the harsh treatment of

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On the Democratic Social State

August 25, 2019

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In an interview last week, Acting Director of USCIS Ken Cuccinelli was asked whether a new Trump Administration rule that would deny green cards to foreigners likely to become a “public charge” violated the welcoming spirit captured by Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus.” He had this to say in response:
Well of course that poem was referring back to people coming from Europe, where they had class-based societies, where people were considered “wretched” if they weren’t in the right class. And [Lazarus’s poem] was written one year after the first federal “Public Charge” rule was passed.
Many critics rightly jumped to point out the blatant racism of positing a fundamental difference between poor, “wretched” immigrants

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“Your national greatness, swelling vanity”

July 3, 2019

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As Donald Trump prepares, at the last minute, an over-the-top military parade for the Fourth of July—and as I prepare to take a few days off for the holiday—I thought I’d share a brief snapshot from my reporting with Charlie Hebdo a few years back. One Fourth of July, Charlie cartoonist Riss and I found ourselves at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia (not far from where I’m spending the summer now), where a left-wing group was organizing a reading of Frederick Douglass’s famous speech, “What to the slave is the Fourth of July?” From what we’ve heard of the festivities Trump has in mind, it seems Douglass’s words, which have always cut deep, are particularly apt: “To [the slave], your celebration is a sham …

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America’s Orwellian Left

June 23, 2019

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John Michael Colón’s excellent essay on democratic socialism and the contemporary American left centers around George Orwell’s Animal Farm. As Colón writes, the book is mainly known as a warning against revolutionary politics in general, a tale of “supposed revolutionaries” who “produced a dictatorship perhaps only distinguished from the old one by being even worse.” One of the piece’s main arguments is that “the failure of Soviet-style ‘communist’ dictatorships was our basic starting point” for left-wing Americans of Colón’s generation (which is also mine, both of us having been born in the early 1990s—one might also say we belong to the same sub-generation of younger “millennials” who had not yet finished college when

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The Titanic, or the Eurostar?

May 30, 2019

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For anyone in the UK (even pro-Europeans), voting in the European elections on Thursday the 23rd felt a little surreal.  Depending on which side of the divide you stood, you might have felt that this was either a cruel, last whiff of cosmopolitanism designed to elicit maximum nostalgia, or an unwelcome reminder that your side—despite its bombast—had been treading (channel) water for three whole years. These were elections that were not supposed to happen.  Last Thursday felt like a political mirage.

The results on the other hand were all too real: a devastated Conservative party at a historic low of 9%, and a humiliated opposition Labour party at 14%—both shunned by exasperated voters.  An exasperation that stood as a

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The European Elections

May 24, 2019

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This week’s elections for the European Parliament may be the most consequential in the continent’s history. On the one hand, right-wing parties and other anti-establishment “populist” movements may be poised for victories that would further upset what had once been stable assumptions about what the European Union was for: from economic integration to humanitarian values. The ongoing confusion over the United Kingdom’s relationship with the EU-27—resulting in a reluctant British participation in the election in which Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, milkshakes aside, is expected to win—in addition to Theresa May’s recent resignation after a Tory revolt, adds a further element of chaos into the mix.

On the other hand, the dangers

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Democracy in 2020

May 11, 2019

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I was at first surprised that Bernie Sanders’s recent proposal to allow formerly and currently incarcerated people to vote was as controversial as it was. One of my takeaways from the 2018 midterms—and American politics since 2016 more broadly—was that voting rights were something all Democrats agreed on. On the one hand, gubernatorial races in Florida and Georgia revealed that Republicans rely on subverting such rights as much as ever. But on the other hand, the Florida ballot initiative to re-enfranchise people with felony convictions showed that even in swing states, it is possible to win major advances for democratic participation. It was therefore somewhat strange that not only Pete Buttigeig (perhaps desperate to show that he

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Reading Tocqueville, Translating Tocqueville

April 25, 2019

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Below is the video from Art’s talk at the University of Chicago last week, entitled “Reading Tocqueville, Translating Tocqueville.” Art was joined by Jim Sparrow, Manon Garcia, Jennifer Pitts, Eric Slaughter, and Nina Valiquette Moreau.

Thanks to Mariam Elmalh and Felix Chaoulideer for their help in preparing this video.

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Obama, sans famille politique

April 12, 2019

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One thing that’s long struck me as an American about French politics is the formation of relatively durable cliques, or familles politiques, around certain high-profile politicians: sometimes presidents, but perhaps even more often prime ministers or other important members of the government. French politicians may be juppéistes or sarkozystes, rocardiens or strauss-kahniens, but Americans don’t typically talk about their politicians this way. Of course, politics everywhere involves building personal networks, which often function by doling out patronage and loyalty. And many politicians will naturally develop inner circles of trusted advisors who will themselves go on to their own political careers. But in France,

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