The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Is our Constitution ill?

Garrett Epps, writing for The Atlantic, warns that the advent of Trumpism comes mainly from an erosion of our collective understanding of and belief in the reasons our Constitution was written in the first place:

Trumpism is the symptom, not the cause, of the malaise. I think we have for some time been living in the post-Constitution era. America’s fundamental law remains and will remain important as a source of litigation. But the nation seems to have turned away from a search of values in the Constitution, regarding it instead as a set of annoying rules.

But even if America is spared President Trump, will the pathologies of the last year simply dissipate in a burst of national good feeling? Hardly. Trump was not a meteorite who has unexpectedly plunged to earth out of the uncharted depths of space; he is the predictable product of a sick system.

The corrosive attack on constitutional values has come, and continues to come, from the right. It first broke into the open in 1998, when a repudiated House majority tried to remove President Bill Clinton for minor offenses. It deepened in 2000, when the Supreme Court, by an exercise of lawless power, installed the President of their choice. It accelerated when the inadequate young president they installed responded to crisis with systematic lawlessness––detention without trial, a secret warrantless eavesdropping program, and institutionalized torture.

Whatever is taught in school, the Constitution never was (in James Russell Lowell’s phrase), “a machine that would go of itself;” what has made it work is a daily societal decision that we wish to live in a constitutional democracy. In 1942, Judge Learned Hand warned that “a society so riven that the spirit of moderation is gone, no court can save; that a society where that spirit flourishes, no court need save.”

And as if on cue, yesterday the Man Himself made another broadside against the 6th and 5th amendments (without, one assumes, knowing that he did):

In a speech on Monday, Donald Trump expressed his displeasure that Ahmad Khan Rahami, the suspect in the recent New York City bombings, will receive the full legal protections afforded to him by the federal Constitution. Trump specifically zeroed in on the fact that Rahami, a naturalized U.S. citizen, will presumably be provided a lawyer, as the Constitution requires. “He will be represented by an outstanding lawyer,” Trump complained with palpable chagrin. “His case will go through the various court systems for years and in the end, people will forget and his punishment will not be what it once would have been. What a sad situation. We must have speedy but fair trials and we must deliver a just and very harsh punishment to these people.”

Slate's Mark Stern goes on to remind readers that John Adams and James Madison made the 6th Amendment right to counsel a bedrock of American jurisprudence for some pretty good reasons. But neither Trump nor his supporters really care about those reasons, because in their limited imaginations, they can't see how taking away those rights for some people will almost certainly result in taking away those rights for them as well.

Complex, likable Hillary

Via Deeply Trivial, BoingBoing's Caroline Seide posits the radical notion that Hillary Clinton's likability challenges may be simply because she's a complex woman:

Hillary Clinton is on one hand the most qualified human being to ever run for president of the United States, and, on the other, one of the most disliked presidential candidates of all time. In fact, Donald Trump is the only candidate who is more disliked than Clinton. And he’s not onlyovertly racist, sexist, and Islamophobic, but also unfit and unprepared for office. How can these two fundamentally dissimilar politicians possibly be considered bedfellows when it comes to popular opinion?

I would argue it’s because we don’t yet have cultural touchstones for flawed but sympathetic women. We can recognize Sanders as a fiery activist, Biden as a truth teller, and Kaine as an earnest goof, but we just don’t have an archetype—fictional or otherwise—through which to understand Clinton. As the first female nominee of a major political party, her campaign is in uncharted waters. As Clinton explains in a recent post for Humans Of New York:

It’s hard work to present yourself in the best possible way. You have to communicate in a way that people say: ‘OK, I get her.’ And that can be more difficult for a woman. Because who are your models? If you want to run for the Senate, or run for the Presidency, most of your role models are going to be men. And what works for them won’t work for you. Women are seen through a different lens.

And our entertainment doesn’t help us understand Clinton either. Our movies, books, and TV shows are filled with attractive female love interests, badass female warriors, hissable female villains, and bumbling female leads. But we don’t have very many female protagonists who are allowed to be flawed in ways that are messily realistic not just charmingly endearing. We haven’t been taught to empathize with flawed women the way we have with flawed men.

Maybe because I enjoy stories with complex women (e.g., Orphan Black, which I'd argue has dozens of interesting, complex women, all played by a woman who finally got her Emmy for playing them), I've always liked Hillary. And the subtle, pervasive sexism she faces in this election is absolutely maddening.

Who will win the debates?

James Fallows has a long article in the upcoming Atlantic attempting to answer this question:

The most famous story about modern presidential campaigning now has a quaint old-world tone. It’s about the showdown between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in the first debate of their 1960 campaign, which was also the very first nationally televised general-election debate in the United States.  

The story is that Kennedy looked great, which is true, and Nixon looked terrible, which is also true—and that this visual difference had an unexpected electoral effect. As Theodore H. White described it in his hugely influential book The Making of the President 1960, which has set the model for campaign coverage ever since, “sample surveys” after the debate found that people who had only heardKennedy and Nixon talking, over the radio, thought that the debate had been a tie. But those who saw the two men on television were much more likely to think that Kennedy—handsome, tanned, non-sweaty, poised—had won.  

Historians who have followed up on this story haven’t found data to back up White’s sight-versus-sound discovery. But from a modern perspective, the only surprising thing about his findings is that they came as a surprise. Today’s electorate has decades of televised politics behind it, from which one assumption is that of course images, and their emotional power, usually matter more than words and whatever logic they might try to convey.

Never has the dominance of the image over the word seemed more significant than this year, as the parties and the public prepare for the three general-election debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump that are scheduled to begin September 26 (as it happens, the anniversary of that first Kennedy-Nixon debate) and the one vice-presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, scheduled for October 4.

The whole thing is worth a read. I'm frustrated that I'll be in a rehearsal during the first debate, but I may stay up late after watching it.

The day's posts

So far today, the following have crossed my browser:

Back to the mines...

Stuff to read later today

It's fascinating how working from home doesn't seem to give me more time to, you know, work. So these have backed up on me, and I hope to read them...someday:

OK, so, that's going to take a few minutes...

Ah, the poor GOP

I'll have more Schadenfreude after November 8th (assuming things go as the polls suggest), but right now I'll just pass on NBC's analysis of what might happen to the Republican Party over the next four years:

Whether or not Trump prevails in November, the GOP is set for a rebuilding process like none in recent memory. If he wins, he’ll face a Congress whose leaders have largely distanced themselves from his brand and who oppose much of his agenda. If he loses, his one-of-a-kind candidacy offers each faction of the party a credible argument that its approach would have carried the election instead.

How to achieve that ideal was another story. Participants disagreed sharply on the policies that constitute true conservatism, the changes needed to secure its political future, and, above all, what Trump’s emergence meant to them. Was he a malevolent force that needed to be purged? A prophet heralding necessary changes? A freak occurrence with no greater meaning at all? Or some mix of all of the above?

In the course of these conversations, four broad paths emerged, each pointing to different agendas, different messages, different coalitions of voters and a different conception of what it means to be a Republican.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the Minnesota Republican Party failed to get any Republican candidates on the state-wide ballot because they missed the filing deadline. As James Fallows said, "Managerial excellence is of course central to Donald Trump’s promises of what he would do in office. What he’s managing now is his campaign."

Later, when I'm done with all this coding...

Some articles to read:

That's all for now. More conference calls...

Lynx

Day two of Certified Scrum Master training starts in just a few minutes (more on that later), so I've queued up a bunch of articles to read this weekend:

Training begins again...

What I didn't read while preparing for Monday's demo

Sometimes, when I'm really busy, I click on articles I want to read. Right now I have a lot tabs open:

So, altogether, not entirely about the election.

Link round-up

We had nearly-perfect weather this past weekend, so I'm just dumping a bunch of links right now while I catch up with work:

Back to the mines.