Tag Archives: Constitution

‘A demand for orthodoxy?’

Some of the less erudite members of the conservative intelligentsia spent last week complaining about the NYT’s 1619 Project, a series of articles that, as uneven as they are, present the founding as a conscious erasure of black Americans despite the presence of slavery and the Constitution’s three-fifths clause. I addressed their complaints and my own reading of nineteenth century history.

Jamelle Bouie, one of the contributors and the columnist who compensates for the employment of Bret Stephens, offers an addendum:

History is not the uncovering of absolute truths. It is a dialogue between the present and the past, between communities of scholars and thinkers working to understand the record of what came before — it is always a process of change and revision and critique. Conservatives have every right to criticize The 1619 Project. But if they’re going to call it “lies” and “garbage history” — if they’re going accuse it of propaganda and partisanship — then they should ask themselves a question: Are they looking for better scholarship or are they making a demand for orthodoxy?

This is not a rhetorical question, nor is he ambiguous about the correct answer.

“Have no fear: we’ve done a golpe de estado”

How reassuring to learn that a member of the president’s Cabinet thought so poorly of our constitutional norms that, we learn in an New York Times op-ed, he and his fellow courtiers now run an extra-constitutional junta from the West Wing. Realizing how impossible impeachment proceedings look in September 2018 — September 2020 too even if the Dems regain both houses of Congress — this popinjay goes forward anyway with an endorsement of more Gilded Age/Baal worship that might happen if Mike Pence sat in the Oval Office: an endorsement that NYT editors themselves tacitly endorse.

Hard times.

How the GOP still wins with Donald Trump: the courts

Since the Reagan era, Republicans have kept their eye on the federal courts, seeing them, correctly, as citadels of reaction that stand for decades. Democrats have not. One of the reasons I voted for Hillary Clinton was, whatever else, I knew she would appoint judges and justices who would interpret the Constitution, particularly the Fourteenth Amendment, as liberally as possible.

With fifty judges awaiting hearings or confirmations, Donald J. Trump has at least kept one of his campaign promises. And they’re a qualified bunch indeed. First, turn to Jeff Mateer:

Mateer, according to comments unearthed by CNN, has also implied that the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage is “disgusting” and could lead to polygamy or bestiality.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has said he still stands by Mateer’s nomination. But Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) has publicly voiced some concerns, particularly that Mateer didn’t disclose the contents of those speeches before he and Cruz ultimately recommended that he be nominated.

“That’s a big problem,” Cornyn told Politico earlier this month. “That may not be the only problem, but that’s a big problem.”

Yes, it’s a big problem. Thinking that male-male intercourse will lead to giving your cat a blow job is a problem.

But the other nominees are better, right? Take John Bush, sitting on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

For example, in 2008, Bush repeated Birther claims—made in the Birtherism-supporting World Net Daily—that “Obama’s kin” living in Kenya was a criminal. He also repeated a claim by Birther Jack Cashill that Obama didn’t write his book, Dreams from my Father. Oh, but I’m not a Birther, Bush told the senators, “I usually relied upon readily available sources on the internet discussing topics that might be of interest to the blog’s readership.”

It just so happens that the only readily available sources were Birthers.

Rest assured: President Rubio, Cruz, or Jeb! would have nominated a Mateer or Bush, for Leonard Leo and his Federalist Society Rolodex have direct communication with the White House.

‘Thus do sacred cows perish, not with a bellow but with a whimper’

Mark Danner, responsible for my morning read:

It seems plain now that in the near term the emoluments clause has in common with these norms that it requires political animation: that it has life only to the degree that those in power are willing to enliven it. Thus far Republicans in Congress, still stunned to find themselves enjoying an undreamed-of monopoly on power and struggling to craft a workable political program not based solely on ressentiment, have shown themselves uninterested in pressing Trump on his business entanglements and seem willing to stand by and let the presidency become a source of great wealth for the Trump family. Thus do sacred cows perish, not with a bellow but with a whimper.

Ours is famously said to be a government of laws, not of men, and yet we find in the Age of Trump that the laws depend on men and women willing to step forward and press them and that such are not to be found in the dominant party in Congress. Republicans are too divided and too focused on the main chance to move to protect what suddenly appear to be abstract principles. In an age when their party cannot muster a national popular vote majority they find themselves unaccountably in full possession of two branches of government and face the task of mastering their divisions sufficiently to pass a political program that won’t further doom them to the wilderness. This means adopting policies of opposition designed to cultivate and harvest resentment, such as repealing Obamacare, which provides health insurance to more than twenty million Americans, while somehow shaping them into a positive program that they can present to constituents as having improved their lives. It is a daunting task and thus far they show few signs of being up to it.

Builds nicely, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile while people goggle at the spectacle here is another but less sexy one:

Giants in telecommunications, like Verizon and AT&T, will not have to take “reasonable measures” to ensure that their customers’ Social Security numbers, web browsing history and other personal information are not stolen or accidentally released.

Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase will not be punished, at least for now, for not collecting extra money from customers to cover potential losses from certain kinds of high-risk trades that helped unleash the 2008 financial crisis.

And Social Security Administration data will no longer be used to try to block individuals with disabling mental health issues from buying handguns, nor will hunters be banned from using lead-based bullets, which can accidentally poison wildlife, on 150 million acres of federal lands.

These are just a few of the more than 90 regulations that federal agencies and the Republican-controlled Congress have delayed, suspended or reversed in the month and a half since President Trump took office, according to a tally by The New York Times.

As much as the Russia and Jeff Sessions stories please me and distract an infuriated Congress, I know these deregulatory moves won’t make the lead but nevertheless require no less vigilance. Keep the calls to congressmen coming.

Taking the Electoral College to school

My man James Madison explained in 1787 why we’ve got an Electoral College:

The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes.

In twentieth century English, Madison meant to say that to counter the majority of Northern votes the South had to count its slaves as part of its total population, hence the origin of the Constitution’s Three-Fifths Blight, er, Clause.

Scott Lemieux joins the growing list of intellectuals (I remember Hendrik Hertzberg as a loud partisan) who over the years have called for an amendment that eliminates the Electoral College and leaves the popular vote count as the only legitimate means of tabulating winners in presidential elections. “There is a certain dark irony to the fact that a system designed to prevent the people from choosing an unqualified demagogue has resulted in the election of an unqualified demagogue not chosen by the people,” Lemieux writes. The trouble is, since 2000 the Democrats have lost two of the last five electoral counts; it would take a GOP defeat for any serious discussion about reform to start, let alone to propose any constitutional amendment. I’ve cooled off on the grumbling at friends who hang on to Hillary Clinton’s considerable popular vote lead as a, ahem, mandate to oppose Trumpism. This presidential election was no “referendum” on liberalism; forty-five percent of voters said in exit polls that they wanted the next president to be as or more liberal than Barack Obama. The election is a hockey stick across the face of complacent Democratic leaders who have had no interest in shoring up candidates at the state level.

Lemieux again:

In the meantime, the Democrats need to emphasize that Donald Trump was not the people’s choice. Paul Ryan has already claimed a mandate for a radical and deeply unpopular policy agenda. More people voted for Clinton’s agenda, which should be a good reason for Democrats to unite in opposition to put pressure on wavering Republicans in the Senate. The Democratic Party cannot normalize the Trump administration.

I trust Chuck Schumer like I do myself around Hendrick’s Gin, but yesterday he sounded like had some fight in him. Here’s how I know the next four years will be difficult: I have to keep my own party in line.