Is January 6 Partisan? 

I appreciate Ben’s thoughts on political exhaustion and largely agree with what he has to say about debates around school curriculum in this post. I’m much less certain about his take on January 6. He’s right that many fellow citizens voted for and supported Trump. We should want to know why they supported him. And we should take some of those reasons seriously. But if we are, as Ben says, to think through founding principles, an essential one—the essential one—is the peaceful transfer of power. That principle was rejected by a sitting president and his party has largely lined up behind him on … Continue reading Is January 6 Partisan? 

The Reasons for Political Exhaustion

George might be right that I missed the point of Sykes’s essay, but it seems that he missed the point of my post. It’s all-too-easy to blame all of our political exhaustion on Trump and the Republicans. But, as I also suggested in my other post today, I don’t see how that gets us anywhere. The answer to all of our political problems can’t just be: the Republicans did it. There is a crisis of confidence in our democracy that can’t be solved merely by changing the party in power and re-litigating January 6 so that we can remind ourselves … Continue reading The Reasons for Political Exhaustion

The Missed Opportunity in the President’s Speech

Until the last ten minutes or so, I thought Biden’s speech was mostly a missed opportunity. Perhaps not from the perspective of partisanship, but from the perspective of what he claims to be one of the President’s function: to unify the country. For the last ten minutes, he reflected on the meaning of January 6, 2021 and discussed ways to overcome it; those last ten minutes should have extended across what would have been a shorter but more effective speech. The difficulty is, however, that those reflections came only after a speech that would have made much more sense on … Continue reading The Missed Opportunity in the President’s Speech

Political Exhaustion and Democratic Collapse

I think Ben misses the point of Charlie Sykes’s piece on exhaustion, and especially Jeff’s thought that exhaustion ought to be studied alongside other political phenomena. The Sykes essay recognizes Ben’s point that in many ways there’s been “too much politics.”  As Sykes notes: “The world is too much with us, of course, but the real problem it is that it so dumb, so infused with mind-numbing bad faith, and a grinding sense of futility that anything will matter or change.” We’re exhausted by the persistent assaults on the public mind by the likes of the Big Lie. We’re exhausted by Republicans gaslighting … Continue reading Political Exhaustion and Democratic Collapse

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

More on Merrill on Jaffa

I second Laura’s recommendation of Tom Merrill’s review essay at The Bulwark. And I, too, want to highlight this passage from his review: “There are other parts of Jaffa’s legacy that could be useful to us today as well: his resolute anti-racism; his understanding that alongside the doctrine of human equality in the Declaration of Independence, the United States has persistent traditions of racial subordination, traditions that by no means died in 1865; and his recognition of the continuing need for political agency and choice on the part of statesmen and citizens.” Jaffa, recall, was making these arguments in the late 1950s, when … Continue reading More on Merrill on Jaffa

Liz Cheney’s Courage 

While Senator Josh Hawley is busy complaining that “the traditional masculine virtues — things like courage and independence and assertiveness” are under siege, he might take a break from his posturing and fist raising to watch Liz Cheney’s recent speech in New Hampshire. Speaking of former President Trump’s continued lies about the 2020 election, Cheney insisted, “Political leaders who sit silent in the face of these false and dangerous claims are aiding a former president who is at war with the rule of law and the Constitution.” Cheney could have had Senator Hawley in mind. Watch Cheney’s speech. Then watch Hawley’s. It’s a study in … Continue reading Liz Cheney’s Courage