Cleon, Trump, and the Goodness of Demagoguery: An Exchange

There are times that the exchanges in the comments section are sufficiently interesting as to become worthy of their own post. I thought this exchange is one of those. The exchange is between Fred Baumann, who wrote this essay for us previously, and Bernard Dobski about Dobski’s essay. It’s unfortunate that more of our intellectual debates don’t have this character: Baumann: “In view of the fact that Trump, in my view at least, attempted usurpation of power through the Eastman memo and the pressure on the Vice President not to register the legally certified results of a national election, associating … Continue reading Cleon, Trump, and the Goodness of Demagoguery: An Exchange

Response to Laura Field on William Thro

Personally, I am more appalled and offended than I am perplexed.  The thrust of the piece is to foist a Christian lens onto the very idea of being a constitutionalist.   So constitutions are only for Christians? Second, Mr. Thro foists a Christian lens onto our specific Constitution even though the only mention of a god is the Lord associated with the numbering of years marking the time  the Constitution was proposed by the Philadelphia convention — as in what we now call the common era.  Madison was able to discuss human nature without reference to God or to theology.  … Continue reading Response to Laura Field on William Thro

Is Judicial Deference Principled?

Greg Weiner articulates a compelling argument for judicial deference—all things considered—to the elected branches of government. As he puts it: judges “can avoid decisions because someone else has already made them: elected officials. A reasonably consistent posture of deference to the elected branches . . . serves dual institutional purposes.”  I want to push the tension between principle and deference a bit more than Greg does. On its face, judicial deference offers a modest institutional role for judges. This understanding rests squarely on a view that decisions made by legislative majorities are preferable to unelected judges. It is a powerful take. And right, … Continue reading Is Judicial Deference Principled?

The Dignity of Work and the Class Divide in America

Bonnie Honig’s outstanding essay for us a couple of days ago suggests that we ought appreciate the intrinsic dignity of work. Our society, however, doesn’t always appreciate that dignity. She writes: “‘Care-work’ or manual labor is “treated as ‘low,’ and it is not paid properly. Providers are often anonymized and rewarded for their labors with job insecurity and vulnerability.” This lack of dignity, reward, or even security for manual labor has been revealed with real clarity by the quarantine. The events of January 6th and the excessive politicization of mask-wearing obscured what the quarantine should have taught us about this … Continue reading The Dignity of Work and the Class Divide in America

Jeffrey Abramson’s follow-up to his prior essay on political resignations

On January 13, I published an essay in these pages (Political Resignations: Comparing the Watergate and Trump Eras), contrasting resignations from the Trump administration to the role political resignations played in toppling Richard Nixon over the Watergate scandal. Recent revelations show that the comparison to Watergate was even closer than suspected. Richard Nixon triggered the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” in 1973, when he ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire the special prosecutor appointed to investigate the Watergate break-in into the offices of the Democratic National Committee.  Richardson resigned instead, backed up by the resignation of the Deputy Attorney General, … Continue reading Jeffrey Abramson’s follow-up to his prior essay on political resignations

The Case for Less Politics: Thoughts on Laura Field’s Reply

I appreciate Laura Field’s thoughtful response to my argument for less politics. She suggests I understate the scale of problems society faces today. That may be the case. There is an equal danger in overstating them and, in particular, in overstating their relationship to politics. Laura correctly notes that my premise, and our disagreement, depends on what we mean by politics. She agrees we need less Trumpism but more engagement with problems like inequality and racism that made Trumpism possible. I certainly agree we need less Trumpism, against which I have been outspoken since he descended the gilded escalator in … Continue reading The Case for Less Politics: Thoughts on Laura Field’s Reply

Yes, Americans need a break from politics. But not for long.

I respect my colleague Greg Weiner’s work very much. I learn from it, and my disagreements with him are usually about things that are both complicated and matter a great deal. And on that note I must say that I disagree with elements of the argument he presented this week quite strongly. I will even go so far as to say that I take issue with it! In short: Greg thinks that we need less politics, and I think we need more. Of course, this depends on what we both mean by politics.  If we set the bar at how … Continue reading Yes, Americans need a break from politics. But not for long.

The Rhetoric of Impeachment

At the Bulwark, Bryan Garsten makes a powerful case for how to persuade Republicans at Trump’s Senate impeachment trial:“To have a chance at conviction, the managers will have to . . . focus on the audience they want to persuade. They will have to put themselves in the ‘weak’ Republicans’ shoes and imagine what would allow them to vote for conviction.” This is good advice and likely the best way forward.  I want to believe there are 17 Republicans who would vote for removal. And I think the impeachment managers should attempt to persuade them along these lines. It would be shrewd if Speaker Pelosi would add a few Republicans … Continue reading The Rhetoric of Impeachment

Skepticism About (Another) Impeachment

A word on Ewing and Sumrall’s thoughtful essay. I think it’s powerful, well done, and agree with the general take on impeachment. But given that impeachment is, in essence, a political question, I think prudential judgments should be a large part of deciding whether to go forward with impeachment. Here I’m not so sure it’s worth the time and effort because I’m skeptical of the benefits. The failure to remove Trump last time around—an impeachment I supported—clearly emboldened him. Sure, he won’t be in office after Jan 20, but will a second failure to remove embolden others in the future? … Continue reading Skepticism About (Another) Impeachment

The Real Election Fraud

Let me also add a thought or two to Ben’s excellent essay and Greg’s thoughts on it.  I think Ben is right in essentials: There is nothing for Congress to decide here. Congress is simply counting the electoral votes, which have been certified by the states. And part of what is crucial about this, as Ben argues, is that under the separation of powers Congress does not get to decide, in the ordinary course of events, who becomes president. That goes doubly for the Vice President’s acting to accept or reject electoral votes. I concur with both Ben and Greg … Continue reading The Real Election Fraud