D Day, November 6

Next Tuesday, November 6, 2018, is a crucial day in our history.

The United States Constitution is a masterpiece of Eighteenth Century Enlightenment mechanics. Part of its genius is in the system of checks and balances that protects against the concentration of power in the hands of a single actor or group within the constitutional system.

Different actors are beholden to different electorates and some roles are selected at different times to provide overlapping periods in power. The effects of momentary passions are tamped down through these and a variety of other means. People in different power roles are accountable to different electorates and are chosen at various times to reflect and sometimes neutralize the passions of the day.

Thus, the nation has survived some perilous times and, often, the effects of incompetent leaders.

However, when all three branches of the government come under control of a single party, we have a problem. Assuming an ordinary level of party discipline, the checks and balances are upset and any hegemonic entity – we usually think of the presidency – has relatively unrestricted power to impose its will on the polity.

That brings us to our urgent need to get out and vote on Tuesday, November 6, if you have not already participated through early voting.

The president currently operates without any effective check on his power. Even if you love the man and his leadership, you should hope for a change of power in the Congress so that he will not operate unchecked any longer. While he provides some policy outcomes that some voters prefer, he has many disturbing leadership traits that ought to make any “small d” democrat very uncomfortable.

There is no need to list these traits here. If you read a newspaper at all you are well aware of his anti-democratic behaviors and the terrible example of his amoral leadership. He seems to know next to nothing about our country’s history, our leadership in the world, the ethic of sharing, or the constitution he is sworn to preserve, protect and defend.

Furthermore, the world hangs in balance as he ignores science and commits us to a course that will almost certainly make the planet uninhabitable by human life. Our summers get worse with fires, storms and floods. Each new announcement coming out of climate science seems to confirm that all their earlier alarms were underestimates of the damage already done, its irreversibility and the amount of time left to take action before we hit a final tipping point.

Our job on November 6 is as serious as the job of the allied forces waiting in the English Channel in June, 1944. The labors they undertook and the sacrifices they sustained were profoundly more daunting than anything required of us to go vote next Tuesday. But what we do may be just as important for the future of mankind.

Your vote is a right. It is a responsibility. And this year you need to vote for Democrats at least for the Senate and House of Representatives. For us Lake Jackson folks, that means a vote for Beto O’Rourke and Adrienne Bell. They will be a major part of the constitutional structure that will hold this president accountable. Even better, they are both excellent candidates and people.

And they really will keep the pre-existing conditions requirement of the Affordable Care Act. They were in favor of it before it was cool.

A Suggestion for the Trump Cabinet Talent Hunt

The president has been losing key leadership at an alarming rate and there is talk that he plans to replace his Attorney General after the November elections. According to the Washington Post he is beginning to make plans, including holding discussions with the AG’s own Chief of Staff.

Should the president be interested in my advice, I think I have found an ideal candidate, This is someone who would be a perfect fit for the Trump White House ethos – the current Texas state Attorney General, Ken Paxton.

Paxton has demonstrated an ability to operate under felony indictments and he looks certain to be re-elected with a comfortable Texas Republican majority. This is Trump’s kind of guy.

Oh, and as Michael Barajas points out in his Texas Observer article, Paxton was talking about witch hunts before Trump made it cool.

This, by the way, is some outstanding reporting in the Texas Observer. This story has been unfolding over the last four years and it has been impossible to keep up with all the legal machinations of Team Paxton. This is an excellent retrospective piece.

 

Trump’s Bandwagon Hits the Road

We humans love being agreeable. It is so much easier than constantly finding ourselves in arguments and having to defend our positions. It also beats having small groups of people turn sidelong glances your direction as if caught talking about you and your “different” way of viewing the world.

That’s why people love bandwagons. If you see one leaving the station, hop on for the ride. You will be in the company of pleasant people who ask nothing from you except your soul. That’s right. Just go with the crowd, be a good snake oil consumer, buy into self-serving political programs and don’t bother the driver with questions about where we are going. There’s a party going on in the back of the bus.

American politics thrives on bandwagons. All politics thrives on bandwagons. One could argue that any political system, over time, will come to reflect the social consensus in which it operates. And while we can bring illustrations from history that would seem to prove the point we must recognize that consensus, itself, is manipulable. Astute politicians have learned how to use the bandwagon effect to manipulate a society’s consensus and, hence, a political system’s drift, direction and policy output.

I am like any other consumer of media, I suppose, with my own bandwagon of reporters and friends in what conservative commentators like to call the left wing media.Yes, the New York Times, the Washington Post, MS-NBC, NPR and The Guardian are sources I trust much more than the White House and its Fox News friends. My choice of media reflects my view that truth is an essential component in our politics.. Truth is a value of the left and seemingly of little concern to the political right. They have learned to play the realpolitik of the classic dictatorships where truth is an ethical drag on the business of achieving and holding power. Continue reading “Trump’s Bandwagon Hits the Road”

I Meet Our New Justice . . . He Likes Beer

I had no plans for watching the Kavanaugh hearing today before the Senate Judiciary Committee. I had heard about all I needed to know about the president’t nominee for the Supreme Court. And somehow I knew I was going to feel a little dirtier if I spent a day watching the U.S. Senate at work.

But I turned it on early, just after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford had been sworn in. Her testimony was riveting as the Republican majority sat off to the side and had a local government sex crimes prosecutor ask all the questions. They apparently didn’t want to risk seeing themselves later in their electoral opponents’ campaign commercials questioning Dr. Ford. They didn’t want to make it too easy for to show them as what they are: white male Republicans with no aptitude for empathy.

I decided to continue watching after lunch and saw our future justice performing most un-judicially for the next three hours. He was angry. He was aggressive. He was rude. He interrupted U.S. Senators. He cried. He told touching stories about his family. He blamed everyone else and took no responsibility for anything. He congratulated himself at every opportunity on how great he is. He had finally mastered the skills of a reality television star. He conducted himself a lot like his new role model, Donald J. Trump.

So much for judicial temperament.

Good luck, America.