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Entries in MassPoliticsProfs by Jerold Duquette

Trump is a failed human being in almost every respect. Pretending that he might “grow” into the toughest job on earth is moronic. Pretending that the signs of engagement that signaled confidence and competence in past presidencies can be interpreted similarly during the Trump presidency is not useful and may even be dangerous.

Tomorrow I will meet my fall 2017 semester students for the first time. Though I am teaching three different courses, all three of my opening day lectures will focus on the same point. All of my students will read a concise description of the dangers of political amateurism written last month by political science professor and blogger Julia Azari.

Azari’s thesis is simple and her perspective widely shared by political scientists. Democracy is not easy and widespread public political ignorance and apathy has long created fertile ground for populist calls for the elevation of political outsiders to power.  The problem is that political outsiders inevitably promote what Azari calls “the pernicious myth of populism that beneath elite squabbles there exists widespread unity of principles” among average Americans. Of course, there is no such consensus. Americans are committed to broadly defined ideals, like freedom, equality, and individual rights, but not agreed on precise definitions of these ideas or on how to realize them.  For that, they need professional help. 

Barry Goldwater was profoundly wrong! Extremism in the pursuit of ANYTHING in politics is vicious.

Early voting puts the emphasis where I think it should be…on the voter’s preferences. Increasing the flexibility of voters increases the chances of and opportunities for voters to focus on THEIR interests and principles and what they want the government to do, not on the reality TV style competition being choreographed by the campaigns.  Over time, voters will adjust to the reality of early voting and those not captive to media framing and candidate-centric propagandizing will find in early voting an opportunity to engage in this most crucial duty of citizenship on their own terms and on their own time.

The level of corruption, confusion, and incompetence on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue right now is truly unprecedented. The GOP establishment’s decision to accept Donald Trump as their party’s standard bearer is looking worse and worse by the minute. But, to be fair, no one thought he would actually win the presidency. How could Mitch McConnell and company have known that Trump would get so much help from the Russians and the far left? Now we have the dumbest, most dishonest president in history and a Congress held hostage by right wing extremists. 

"Optics" Illusions in the Age of Trump

Donald Trump’s first speech to Congress last night was full of “good optics.” Trump’s effort to make Americans forget that he had, only hours earlier, blamed the military commanders for the death of Navy Seal William “Ryan” Owens was hailed by Liberal commentator Van Jones as the moment when Trump “became President of the United States.” WOW!  I say, the moment Van Jones declared Trump has become the P.O.T.U.S. is the moment when optics finally and totally eclipsed substance in American politics.

Will Trump & the Tea Party break the Constitution? America may be approaching a collision point with constitutional change that requires an approach not unlike the nation’s first such collision point arrived at in 1787 when the failure of the national government to maintain order, protect property, and provide public goods collided with an insurmountable amendment procedure. Republicans have long fancied themselves the great defenders of the Constitution. They may have succeeded in making that pretention a reality in 2016. Unfortunately, they may have done so in a way that will seriously hamper their capacity to be successful defenders.
Ultimately, Americans may be mired in a “post-truth” political world because in order to discredit the liberals and the liberalism that discredited America’s imagined moral consensus, conservatives have sought to discredit intellectual consensus in America. Liberals ignore the authority of faith, so conservatives have come to deny the authority of reason. If clerics no longer have moral authority in America, then neither should scientists and scholars have intellectual authority. If liberals can relegate moral truths to the status of mere “value judgments,” then conservatives can do the same with facts, reason-based claims, and science. Liberals have to either tolerate the subjectivity of facts or confess that “they started it” and that their use of moral relativism as a political cudgel was equally irrational, destructive, and uncivil.
Patriotism Misunderstood If you are standing with a person holding a sign that reads “America Love It or Leave It,” YOU ARE NOT STANDING UP FOR THE IDEALS REPRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN FLAG!!!
In case you missed it, my piece dismantling Eric Fehrnstrom’s initial support on social media for the Trump campaign’s desperate attempt to label Clinton an “anti-Catholic bigot” can be read here. Comically, Mr. Fehrnstrom went ahead and wrote a Globe column in which he attempts to support this Hail Mary pass by The Donald’s camp (Sorry couldn’t resist). What follows is the debunking Fehrnstrom's latest column so richly deserves.
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