January 2023 Archives

Dear America,

The last few weeks of the New York Times Sunday opinion section has been unusual.  It always includes essays from both ends of the political spectrum, but in these recent weeks there has been a surprising univocality evident in what the contributors have opined, and notably their political affiliations have been both Republican and Democratic.  For example, two weeks ago, David Brooks and Bret Stephens wrote jointly about the current state and future of the Republican Party evincing concern approaching despair about both.  In comments about the party's appropriate course for the future they departed in both their perspectives on what the party is today and on how it should evolve.  But they both saw today's Republican Party as disturbingly dysfunctional and no longer politically viable.  And of course the reliably critical liberal commenters continued in their disdainful vein about Republicans and the nature of what the party characterizes as conservatism.  What both camps shared was the opinion that today's putative conservatives are nothing of the sort.  Stephens believes that "MAGA" is in no way related to consrevatism, which he characterizes as supply-side economics and moral traditionalism, or put another way, Reaganomics and moral didacticism.  Brooks takes a more purely political view in that he sees the future of the Republican Party and conservatism as bound to a programmatic repudiation of what he thinks of as coastal, Ivy League elites.  In effect, both urge dogmatism, but of a different kind from the xenophobic, chauvinistic exclusionist nature of MAGA would-be conservatism.

The liberals' bent is similarly critical of MAGA-Republican faux-conservatism, but it is no surprise that they display a consensus mentality.  Being an old sixties liberal myself, I am of course in agreement with those in my camp, but shockingly now with respected conservative political commentators as well.  If they reflect even just a substantial minority of Republican sentiment, it seems that the next presidential election will turn on how many voters are in each camp rather than in each party, which suggests to me that we good guys will prevail, but that leaves a residual problem.  Those who subscribe to Q-anon and various conspiracy theories also believe the preposterously tautological notion that the 2020 election was the consequence of fraud in that election of anyone but Trump would have to be because, they fervently believe, he was and is indubitably the majority's choice, and thus, Joe Biden couldn't have won.  They reject the reality that the popular majority in this nation sees Donald Trump for what he is and scorn him as an odious malfeasor of catastrophic proportion in many and varied respects.   They will never see the light, and they will continue to look for confirmation of their biases wherever they can find them, including in the voices of fellow travelers like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and the rest of the deluded MAGA establishment.  They will never go away, which means that they will be inimical to civil tranquility for a long time...maybe, God forbid, in perpetuity, which would precipitate the nadir, and ultimately the extinguishment of the American democratic experiment.  

In the end, the dialectic between the two major schools of thought may have ephemeral meaning election to election, but in the long run, the irrational MAGA faithful will be the problem that won't let us perdure as a nation.  So what do we do about them?  It is my belief that inescapable reason is the only way, and so getting them to listen is the challenge...the existential challenge that we have to meet.  When we discuss the matters that dogmatic Trumpism manifest itself in, the key is patience.  I have an acquaintence with whom I have found myself in the same room on occasion, and when our relationship began, it was tense.  But eventually I simply pointed out to him that our differences were disagreements of opinion, and he seems to have seen that light.  We accept each other now, and that is the gateway through which we can enter upon a discovery of the facts on  which we base our respective opinions civilly and honestly.  For example, Trump announced his first candidacy by proclaiming, in effect, that immigration from Mexico injects into American society a criminal element.  But the fact is that native born American citizens are more likely to commit crimes than are immigrants, legal and illegal combined.  According to the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, that is a fact, and it is indisputable.  I haven't raised the issue with this acquaintance because I am waiting for him to bring it up, and that is the strategy that I advocate.  First, get those you know who have suffered inculcation of MAGA canards in their thinking to admit that your political differences are differences of opinion and thus are not amenable to resolution...and then wait.  When an assumption based on factual error comes up, point out the facts and suggest that the person to whom you are speaking not take your word for it, but look it up...but do so with a reliable source.  In a phrase, suggest to them that they embark upon "critical thinking."

I think we are safe from the daunting possibility of MAGA hegemony in our society.  It is still fringe thinking, and I believe that the electoral plurality, if not the majority, still sees reason.  And as to that majority, we all have to be patient and avoid alienating them.  Maybe with the velvet glove or rationality they can be saved.  Let's hope so.

Your friend,

Mike                                                                                                                            

Dear America,

I am constantly amazed by Republican miscalculation.  Think back to the attack on the Benghazi consulate when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.  The Republicans were in control of congress and they initiated something like a dozen investigations into Clinton's official performance.  None of them yielded anything inculpating about Hillary but they did reveal that the consulate's security personnel were too few in number in consequence of the "sequestration" that the Republicans had insisted upon.  It curtailed the budget of the department of state insufficiently to necessitate staff cuts in both civilian and military security.  I can remember Trey Gowdy on television trying to make something out of nothing when it was all over.  And I can remember Kevin McCarthy trying to invoke that investigatory excess as a basis on which he qualified to be Speaker of the House, a preposterous notion then as in recent weeks.  It was about the time of the investigations that I started making reference to the Republican foot-shooting pistol.

Well, McCarthy drew the foot-shooting pistol again when he ran for, and eventually received after a public repudiation of his qualifications in the form of opposition to his election within his own party, and he has refused to re-holster it.  First, it has now been announced that Congressman Santos of Nassau County, New York--you know, the fantasist who's resume and personal history were at best fictitious and at worst, and more likely a function of psychosis--was asked by his fellow Long Island congressmen to resign.  But McCarthy says that this lunatic should serve out his term and then let the voters decide whether he should be re-elected.  What that seems to say is both that McCarthy cares not a fig about integrity within his party, and that he isn't concerned about insanity among its members.  Bang...bang.  McCarthy has shot the Republican collective foot twice despite the fact that some in his party have had the good judgment to call for the right thing, giving him cover if he just had the integrity and the intelligence to recognize it and seize it.  And now, McCarthy and his fellow Republicans have stated their intention to investigate President Biden for his apparent retention of classified documents, and they should, but they don't realize that they have just reloaded their foot-shooting pistol.

Let's say that Biden has a good explanation for his mishandling of classified material.  The fact that the Republicans will have gone far enough to find that out will emphasize their failure to do so in Trump's case.  Bang.  And in the alternative, say Biden has no justification for his actions.  The consequence will like be that the Democrats will prevail upon Biden, or the Justice Department will, not to run for re-election.  The result will be a more viable Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2024: someone younger, with less baggage (Hunter and all) and probably...and I hate to say this...smarter.  Trump might actually beat Biden the second time they ran against each other, but I'm pretty sure that almost anyone else could now beat Trump the way that Johnson beat Goldwater.  Goldwater was as far right as Trump, and Johnson wasn't that popular as I remember it.  The war in Vietnam was just ramping up and the commitment of Johnson to induce the Vietnamese to wage their war instead of using too many American young men was easily contrasted to Goldwater's allusion to using nuclear weapons there.  In general Goldwater was brash and unrealistic, and so far right that he seemed dangerous.  In short, Goldwater was bizarre in some of the policies he advocated, many of which are reminiscent of Trump's reactionary stances in general, and Goldwater lost 61% to 39%; at that time, the worst defeat in American presidential electoral history.  That, I believe, will be the Republicans' fate if they knock Biden out of the 2024 race and Trump, or even DiSantis is nominated by them.  Even Kamala Harris would have a good chance of getting elected against those two, but Biden?  I just don't know.  So let the Republicans investigate Biden.  All that would mean is...Bang.

I always think that the Democrats are their own worst enemies.  If the Republicans just let them do what they shouldn't, or more aptly not do what they should, the we Democrats will often beat ourselves.  But with the Republicans firing that foot-shooting pistol rapid fire...one time after another...we've got a good chance.  So to the partisan zealots in the Republican Party, I say go to it.  Keep doing what you're doing and we can't lose.

Your friend,

Mike.

Dear America,

The real reason that Kevin McCarthy couldn't even get a majority of his own party to vote for him for speaker was that even the Republicans know that he is just an empty suit, which I actually saw as a descriptor for him in an editorial this weekend.  He stands for nothing but loyalty to the party; no dedication to public service, no principle, no philosophy, no goal other than self-aggrandizement.  At one point, I heard mention of bringing the Democrats in on the process because McCarthy was such a pariah among Republicans.  It was only a brief mention, but it could have become a legitimate prospect if all of our representatives--Democrats and Republicans alike--ever recognized, and more importantly acknowledge that their primary function should be representation of the people and pursuit of their collective wishes.  Thus, as the constitution doesn't even require that the Speaker of the House be a member of the body, they should have had what amounted to a nominating convention in which anyone could have been nominated for the speaker-ship, not just the consensus of the majority party.  That would have been democratic process, but democracy is not the modus operandi of our bicameral legislature.  Party hacking is.

What I mean by that is that the rules of both houses are designed to keep the members in office.  The Majority Leader of The Senate can prevent a vote on anything--from judicial nominations to the budget resolution required to keep the government running--if he or she so chooses.  So, when Mitch McConnell was the Majority Leader, he prevented a vote on Barrack Obama's nominee for the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.  That allowed the consequence that three nominations from a miscreant who just happened to be the next president,  were confirmed just because the Republicans were the majority party.  They were confirmed even though anyone watching the confirmation hearings could see that the nominees were lying about their preconceived positions on Roe v. Wade, just as Thomas did decades ago when he said he had never spoken to anyone about Roe during his last year at Yale, the first year that Roe was law.  And they all proved that their positions were preconceived in their holding in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization in which they overruled Roe.  The central issue in Dobbs was whether the Mississippi statute that forbade abortions after fifteen weeks of pregnancy was barred by extant law, that is Roe v. Wade, and it wasn't.  Roe vs. Wade made abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy--that's something between thirteen and fourteen weeks--a constitutionally guaranteed right.  But it allowed for the states to make their own decisions and set their own criteria for allowing abortion after the first trimester, which presumably was part of the design of the Mississippi legislature when it put that law within the bounds set by the Roe court, which the Roe court further refined in a subsequent amplification of the principles of Roe in the Casey decision.  Don't take my word for it; read Chief Justice Roberts's concurring decision in Dobbs in which he said that he agreed with the majority affirming Mississippi's power to pass the statute, but he didn't see that Roe was an issue and thus saw its overruling to be gratuitous, or as they say in the law, sua sponte...of one's own accord and not required by the issues before the court.  Robert's, a conservative like them, called them and Justices Thomas and Alito out on their deceitful testimony that allowed them to be confirmed without explicitly saying so.  They were condemned to historical infamy by one of their own, which leads me back to the anti-democratic rules of the two houses of our national legislature and what should be, but won't be, done about it.

A shallow mind like McCarthy's should never be allowed to control a body as important as our House of Representatives.  Mitch McConnell is as amoral as McCarthy, but at least he has the mental capacity to form intentions, even if they are bad ones.  McCarthy could easily stumble into a debacle by abuse of the power of legislative leadership.  He is an accident waiting to happen, and thus the conservative wing of the Republican Party that almost scuttled McCarthy's narcissistic ambition also almost saved the nation from vulnerability to catastrophes that McCarthy may wreak on us...some uncalculated misstep resulting from his dubious use of a power that shouldn't exist.

I'm no fan of mindless conservatism, which to me is a euphemism for mean-spiritedness and lack of humanity.  But the most reactionary conservatives in The House had the chance to redeem themselves, at least in my eyes if they had demonstrated their sincerity in opposing McCarthy instead of demonstrating that they will agree to anything, even a vapid dunderhead at the helm, if it gets them what they want.  They traded power to get power, but they put it in dangerous hands, and that doesn't constitute a vindication of conservative principles, if you'll excuse the oxymoron.

Your friend,

Mike

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2023 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2022 is the previous archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.