Republicans’ determination to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court marks an escalation of the politicization of the judiciary in the United States.
Kavanaugh faces unanimous opposition from Democrats due to allegations of sexual assault, his extreme views on presidential power (Kavanaugh does not believe a sitting president can be indicted or tried) and his partisanship. Read more
Republicans Are Playing with Fire by Disparaging the FBI
Having undermined Americans’ trust in the media, the courts, public education, science and Congress, Republicans are now turning on one of the few institutions that still command wide respect: the FBI.
In their desperation to save Donald Trump from scandal, Republicans are concocting wild conspiracy theories of FBI agents scheming to overturn the 2016 election.
This hysteria will not be without consequence. When partisans become convinced that the institutions of government have been taken over by the other side, they stop listening to them. When those institutions are law enforcement, the dangers are obvious. Read more
Republicans Broke American Politics in These Three Ways
Political scientists Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein argue in The New York Times that the Democratic and Republican Parties don’t share the blame for the sorry state American politics are in.
Republicans are the ones who broke American politics, they write, in three ways:
By demonizing government: Republicans have for decades attacked and dismantled institutions and flouted the norms of lawmaking, undermining the public’s trust in government.
By opposing Barack Obama every step of the way: Even when he proposed policies Republicans once supported, like an individual health-insurance mandate. This radicalized conservative voters, who were told Republicans could bring the president to his knees if only they won a majority in Congress. The Obama effect had an ominous twist: an undercurrent of racism that was embodied in the “birther” movement led by Donald Trump.
By creating a conservative echo chamber: From the rise of talk radio in the 1980s, Fox News in the 90s, right-wing blogs in the early 2000s and social media in our time, conservatives have created a media ecosystem in which “alternative facts” thrive and hostility to the “establishment”, immigrations and Democrats boosts ratings. Read more
The American Culture Wars Are Officially a Strategic Threat
Donald Trump campaign people are going to jail.
This isn’t quite the fall of the Trumpian house of cards. Paul Manafort’s indictment is very specific to him and his work in Ukraine. More information must come out before we can be certain this will lead to the White House. While the revelations of George Papadopoulos create the strongest link yet, they have not produced an indictment to date.
Yet there is an essential tale here: for the first time in modern American history, a foreign power has substantially interfered with a political campaign. It’s not that others haven’t tried. The Soviet Union tried several times to back favored candidates, especially in the turbulent 1960s and 70s. But in those Cold War cases, American candidates refused the help.
This is the first time it looks like someone said yes.
How Ripe for Tyranny Is America? Two Numbers to Give You Pause
Nearly one in two Americans believe the news media fabricate stories about President Donald Trump. The number is 76 percent for Republicans. Only 11 percent of Republicans are confident the media report honestly. (Conor Friedersdorf’s latest in The Atlantic is worth reading in terms of this partisan divide.)
Half of all college students (62 percent of Democrats, 39 percent of Republicans) believe it is acceptable to shout down controversial speakers. One in five would even tolerate violence!
Larry Summers, a top economic advisor to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, tells Axios that today’s economic challenges — artificial intelligence, automation, globalization — require a leader on the scale of Germany’s Otto von Bismarck, England’s William Gladstone or America’s Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt:
I think it would be a gross misreading of history to think that a laissez-faire, preserve-what-is and don’t-add-anything-new in terms of public institutions and public programs will be sufficient to enable our societies to deal with these trends, which are very much under way.
But that assumes transformational leadership is a condition for transformational change, which is doubtful.
And Summers should be careful what he wishes for. Clamoring for a strongman can open the door to less benign figures. Just look at Donald “I-alone-can-fix-it” Trump. Read more