Archive

December 1st

Ben Sasse's conservative cause needs Brooklyn

    With Donald Trump poised to assume power over the federal government, individual Republicans must decide whether they are on Team Trump, Team Conservative or Team America. The overwhelming majority will choose the first, and most expedient, category. They will use Trump, and be used by him, to advance their own ambition, trampling underfoot whatever conflicting principles they previously claimed to hold.

    There will, however, be a few notables who align themselves either with conservative principles, or with the broader, less ideological cause of supporting democratic norms, pluralistic political culture and American cohesion. This small band, aided by Democratic allies, will determine how much damage Trump inflicts while making America great again.

    Arizona Sen. John McCain, for example, has already raised concerns about Trump's crush on Vladimir Putin and about Trump's position on torturing suspected enemies. There's nothing uniquely conservative about either concern. Similarly, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is not enthusiastic about Trump's plan to deport young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. It's a humane position, but not an especially conservative one.

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At Lunch, Trump Gives Critics Hope

    Well,  that was interesting ... Donald Trump came to lunch at The New York Times. You can find all the highlights on the news pages, but since I had the opportunity to be included, let me offer a few impressions of my first close encounter with Trump since he declared for the presidency.

    The most important was that on several key issues — like climate change and torture — where he adopted extreme positions during his campaign to galvanize his base, he went out of his way to make clear he was rethinking them. How far? I don’t know. But stay tuned, especially on climate.

    There are many decisions that President-elect Trump can and will make during the next four years. Many of them could be reversible by his successor. But there is one decision he can make that could have truly irreversible implications, and that is to abandon America’s commitment to phasing out coal, phasing in more clean energy systems and leading the world to curb carbon-dioxide emissions before they reach a level that produces a cycle of wildly unpredictable climate disruptions.

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America's working class has its own culture and will fight to keep it

    America is a patchwork of regional and local identities, stitched together by a shared history and the values and political structures enshrined in the Constitution. Despite the immortalization of cultural assimilation in the 1907 play "The Melting Pot," Americans have preferred the richness of regional and local flavors to a bland, everyman America.

    More like PBS' " A Chef's Life ," with its focus on the food and traditions of eastern North Carolina, many Americans remain rooted in the folk culture of their region, whether it's the way of life found in the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia, or the Great Lakes of the Upper Midwest.

    The vast majority of those who inhabit the regional folk cultures of America's fruited plains belong to what historian Christopher Lasch called the "petty bourgeoisie." By this, Lasch meant the confluence of the working class and the lower middle class - small proprietors, artisans, tradesmen and farmers. They at one time unionized against the forces of industrialization and now have voted against globalization, and they share the same set of values and thus a common perspective.

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A Trump infrastructure bank would create many risks

    Politicians have fretted over, debated and vowed to fix America's crumbling infrastructure. For four decades.

    Donald Trump, in his election-night victory speech, is the latest to pledge to give the nation a facelift, using American-made steel and employing American workers. "We're going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals," he said. Construction stocks zoomed on the news.

    Where will he get $1 trillion for such an ambitious plan? Trump's chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, isn't worried. The controversial chairman of Breitbart News Network said in a Nov. 15 interview that he's the biggest proponent in Trump-land of borrowing for these public-works projects because negative interest rates are "the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything." He enthused:

    "Shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up. We're just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution."

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A pediatric critical-care nurse has a message for her patients and their parents: Thank you

    When people ask me what my job is like, I have a hard time coming up with an answer. I am a nurse in a pediatric intensive-care unit, so the definition of a good day is relative to the condition of my patients, and a bad day is usually too hard to describe. But one thing that I can always convey is that my patients and their families often do more for me than I do for them.

    Recently, the Islamic scholar Hamza Yusuf spoke in a talk he gave about his mother's passing. He mentioned a letter he received from her oncologist, Suhail Obaji, who wrote that "my visits with her were a treat to my soul. She gave me a comfort and tranquility that in reality made me realize that she was the doctor and I was the patient."

    I am blessed to come across people who make me feel like this almost every day. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is my gratitude to these parents and their children.

    - For your compassion. To the 7-year-old with cystic fibrosis happily playing with her self-made crown and plastic jewels, until she saw a boy rolling by in a wheelchair. The next thing I knew, she was making him a crown, and never did she look more royal to me.

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A fake conspiracy for a fevered political age

    Walk in to Comet Ping Pong, a neighborhood restaurant about two miles from the White House, and you don't think," Satanic den." You think, "How long will I have to wait to get a table," and "Geez, there are a lot of kids in here."

    Comet may be a family pizzeria in a leafy neighborhood, but it's still in Washington in a political year. And that was enough to turn this hole-in-the-wall into an obsession of the alt-right, a loose collection of white nationalists and sympathizers who have ardently supported President-elect Donald Trump.

    A Reddit page topped by a President Trump logo is rich with charges that Comet is the red-hot center of a Democratic sex ring that operates under the code name, you guessed it, "pizza."

    Responding to a thread of slurs about a pizzeria cum child-sex-trafficking ring, a Reddit user asked of an alt-right-friendly news site: "@BreitbartNews OMG -- do you know what this means?! Am I supposed to be mad or hungry?"

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November 30th

Yes, in the US, the people can reject a president - if they're sure he's a tyrant

    If the thousands of protesters chanting "Not my president!" are any indication, the U.S. president-elect's legitimacy may be in peril.

    This should not be dismissed as mere rhetorical flourish: A recent poll shows that 18 percent of Americans reject Donald Trump's legitimacy as president.

    Some critics dismiss these protesters as sore losers. More seriously, they are blamed for undermining the legitimacy of our democratic institutions. Trump won fair and square according to our agreed-upon constitutional processes; hate him all you want, as Andrew Sabl wrote here in the Monkey Cage, but you cannot reject the winner just because your side loses.

    What these arguments fail to grasp, however, is that, in the United States, authority is never legitimate if it is tyrannical, no matter how unanimous the vote or impeccable the electoral process. (As Sam Goldman recently pointed out, tyranny - a concept so relevant to ancient Athenian politics - suddenly seems poised for a comeback!)

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Wisconsin gerrymander take politics too far

    In a case that could eventually affect the balance of legislatures across the country, a federal court in Wisconsin has for the first time struck down a partisan gerrymander. The U.S. Supreme Court has previously declined to regulate such party-based districting, but this time may well be different. The lower court gave a simple, clear rule for determining whether districting is designed to disadvantage one party systematically. And the growing disparity between Republican and Democratic-controlled state legislatures gives the justices -- especially Anthony Kennedy -- very good reason to intervene.

    The facts of the case are being repeated all over the country. The Wisconsin state legislature, which sets state and federal electoral districts, is Republican controlled. After the 2010 census, it introduced a new districting plan that was designed by experts with computer programs so sophisticated that they make the task simple. The plan was to increase the number of Republicans elected using techniques called "cracking" and "packing."

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Why did Obama win more white evangelical votes than Clinton? He asked for them.

    The white evangelical vote has been a focus of post-election coverage, and for good reason. If you had told the average person that white evangelicals would account for more than a fourth of the entire electorate, they may not have believed you: After all, evangelicals are often imagined as a fringe population. But they represented more than a quarter of the electorate in 2012 and 2008, and again this year.

    In the 2016 presidential election, 81 percent of these voters -- voters that Democrats remember exist only every four years -- voted for Donald Trump, and only 16 percent supported Clinton, well below the level of support of white evangelicals for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, when he won 26 and 21 percent of white evangelical votes respectively.

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What TV journalists did wrong - and the New York Times did right - in meeting with Trump

    On Monday, some of the biggest names in TV news trooped into Trump Tower for an off-the-record meeting with the president-elect.

    It was an all-star cast. Not just on-air stars like Lester Holt, Wolf Blitzer and George Stephanopoulos but also their bosses were summoned before the Potentate of Fifth Avenue.

    The meeting was a huge success - for Donald Trump.

    Soon after it broke up, a leak to the New York Post brought on a story about how thoroughly the president-elect had taken the attendees to task.

    With attribution to anonymous tipsters, the Post wrote: "The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing-down. ... Trump kept saying, 'We're in a room of liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong.'"

    Call it Woodshed Theater, with all the applause lines for the president-elect.

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