Why are we so politically exhausted?

My Constitutionalist colleague Jeff Tulis posted a link to Charlie Sykes’s essay, “Thoughts on our Political Exhaustion.” Tulis commends the article and seems to suggest that we ought overcome our exhaustion by understanding it and hope again for the future: “Out of better understanding may come hope, and out of hope may come action.” While respecting Tulis’s call for us to return to politics with renewed vigor, I’d take the opposite lesson from Sykes’s essay. We’re exhausted from politics because there’s been so much of it all the time. And so much of it occurs at a level over which … Continue reading Why are we so politically exhausted?

BBB and a d(D)emocratic mandate

In the wake of Joe Manchin’s refusal to support the Build Back Better Bill, there has been lots of recriminations of our constitutional system. For instance, this tweet calls for structural change because Manchin was able successfully to oppose the rest of his party. “Healthy democracy” is said to require that the 50 Democratic Senators in an evenly divided Senate completely get their way. After all, Manchin is joined in opposition by 50 Republicans. Might we not ask the opposite question: what type of constitutional democracy is it when 50 Democrats can win on everything despite the opposition of exactly … Continue reading BBB and a d(D)emocratic mandate

Who’s Watching Whom?

In this tweet, Barbara Walter seems to propose that we allow the CIA to create a task force that would “try to predict where and when political instability and conflict is likely to break out” domestically, just as they do around the world now. I would like to assume that Professor Walter, a political scientist at UC-San Diego, meant this tweet ironically. But, given the rest of her intellectual profile, I think it wasn’t meant in jest. Instead, it represents a new comfort level that people, especially those on the left, now have with the apparatuses of government. Insofar as … Continue reading Who’s Watching Whom?

The Foolishness of Intellectuals

I guess great minds think alike. I was just in the middle of writing my own recommendation of Tom’s essay, when Laura and George wrote theirs. Still I’ll triple down on the recommendation. Tom Merrill (American University) has a piece in the Bulwark today that is truly outstanding. Framed as a review of Glenn Ellmers’s, The Soul of Politics: Harry V. Jaffa and the Fight for America, Merrill undertakes a profound analysis not only of Harry Jaffa and the Claremont Institute, but of intellectuals more generally. I liked it especially for this line: “There is some foolishness that only intellectuals … Continue reading The Foolishness of Intellectuals

The Western Tradition and Human Freedom

Martha Bayles wrote this review of what sounds like a very interesting book, Rescuing Socrates by Roosevelt Montas at Columbia University. Montas apparently shows persuasively the ways in which a thinker like Socrates helped liberate him and educate him beyond his background as a Dominican immigrant fresh to New York City. It led him to Columbia and that led him, ultimately, to become a Professor at Columbia teaching in their Great Books Program. It is insufficiently appreciated that the Western Tradition isn’t simply the preserve of old white men dedicated to the preservation of what’s old merely because it’s what’s … Continue reading The Western Tradition and Human Freedom

The Vaccination Mandate, the Congressional Statutory Framework, and Presidential Action

Although I agree with Greg Weiner’s post in his general point about congressional legislation that is too sweeping in its general point, I don’t think the point applies here. After all, the Fifth Circuit found sufficient distance between OSHA and the vaccination mandate that it put a stay on the Mandate, pending further action by the Court. Of course, the Court could end up allowing the mandate to continue. But, as Weiner notes, there is a significant difference between OSHA’S provision for standards relating to toxic chemicals, “substances or agents that are deemed to be toxic or physically harmful or … Continue reading The Vaccination Mandate, the Congressional Statutory Framework, and Presidential Action

China’s “Stiff Competition”

In a recent press briefing from White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, she said: “I can say and would echo what he said, which is, generally speaking, we’ve made clear our concerns about the military capabilities that the PRC continues to pursue. And we have been consistent in our approach with China: We welcome stiff competition, but we not — we do not want that competition to veer into conflict. And that is certainly what we convey privately as well.” Thinking of China as a “stiff competitor” has already attracted a great deal of criticism. I thought it worth commenting … Continue reading China’s “Stiff Competition”

Politics and Moral Neutrality

Just recently I came across this essay connecting Max Weber’s essays “Science as a Vocation” and “Politics as a Vocation” to Trump’s impeachment. According to Zaretsky, civil servants both in Weber’s time and in our own have worked with the “imperative of vocation,” even or especially when, in the words of Weber, “an absolutely immeasurable factor” like the Kaiser in Weber’s time or Trump in our own act unpredictably and without thought. They must be, Zaretsky argues, “devoted to their calling” or their vocation even in the midst of the “absolutely immeasurable factor”of a leader like Trump or the Kaiser. … Continue reading Politics and Moral Neutrality

The Problem with Presidential Narratives and the Need for Humility

As the situation in Afghanistan worsens, the President has continued to maintain that our withdrawal has mostly gone as planned. He has claimed that the significant problems aren’t ours; they are traceable to an Afghan government that wasn’t willing to stand up to the Taliban. Even if this account is correct, it still fails to solve Biden’s difficulties. As we watch the Kabul airport first fill with people, then fill with people on the outside, then fall victim to what was a predictable terrorist attack, it’s hard to believe that this was the plan. Why couldn’t the evacuation of American … Continue reading The Problem with Presidential Narratives and the Need for Humility

August 13: Can Foreigners Become Citizens and Govern?

On August 13th, they took up a debate about whether to require four years or seven years of citizenship before someone was eligible to serve in the House of Representatives. Ultimately, they settle on seven years and the Constitution still requires seven years of citizenship before being eligible. But their debate on this question is interesting for what it reveals about the founders’ varying conception of citizenship. Elbridge Gerry voices what we might call the “nativist” worry: “Persons having foreign attachments will be sent among us & insinuated into our councils, in order to be made instruments for their purposes.” … Continue reading August 13: Can Foreigners Become Citizens and Govern?