American politics in 2018 is a hot mess. The Age of Trump will almost certainly be understood as a chaotic and terribly destructive time in American politics when our institutions were strained to the limit and democratic norms of conduct were shattered. Not so in Massachusetts, however.
The drop of the Bay State from 1st to 8th in the U.S. News rankings will undoubtedly complicate Charlie Baker’s re-election effort, but it isn’t likely to cause the odds makers to move the state’s gubernatorial race from a “likely” re-election to a “toss up.” Nonetheless, it is clearly an unexpected gift to the three folks competing to be Baker’s general election foe.There is a clear lesson here to be learned (or remembered), of course...
Disapproval of the NFL players’ form of political protest is the result of ignorance, misinformation and disinformation nurtured by understandable (but not justified) emotional reactions. The idea that such protests were disrespectful to military members and veterans is illogical and wrong. Of course, one can “feel” that anything is anything, but since words and ideas actually have meaning, we can and should dismiss as demonstrably false the truth claim that Colin Kaepernick’s protest was disrespectful (intentionally or otherwise) to the military.
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.
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.
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.