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.

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.

Maine is sorry

After Maine Governor Paul LePage (the Rob Ford of New England) made yet more inappropriate comments into a recording device earlier this week, the Portland Press Herald has apologized to the rest of the U.S. for electing him:

Dear America: Maine here. Please forgive us – we made a terrible mistake. We managed to elect and re-elect a governor who is unfit for high office.

You probably heard about the latest episode. He was asked about the toxic racial environment that he created in the state with insensitive statements about people of color. The questioner, an entrepreneur from New York, wondered how he could ever bring a business here.

The question was an opportunity for the governor to undo some of the damage that he has caused by giving members of minority groups around the country the impression that Maine is a white state where no one else is welcome.

Instead, the governor repeated one of his worst libels: That Maine’s drug crisis is the fault of black and brown transient thugs who come here not only to sell their poison but also to take advantage of “white Maine women.”

At least he's term-limited. Though he probably won't live up to everyone's favorite recent promise, that he'll resign.

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...

Cracks in the wall

Voters in Kansas yesterday called borderline-crazy Tea Partier Tim Huelskamp home from the U.S. House:

Frustrated voters in a sprawling Kansas congressional district sent a blunt message on Tuesday that might yet break through the din of this election: At some point the government needs to do something for them.

That sentiment was delivered in the harshest possible terms to Representative Tim Huelskamp, a firebrand Tea Party conservative who lost in a primary landslide after spending most of his six years in Washington feuding with his own leaders. He was so difficult to work with and troublesome that he was kicked off the Agriculture Committee.

The loss of that crucial legislative post, and his vote against a long-term farm bill, did not endear him to the powerful farming interests in a state that likes its federal agricultural aid.

Farm groups joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and another deep-pocketed advocacy group to get behind Roger Marshall, a political novice who promised to work on behalf of Kansas rather than rabble rouse.

In other words, he got fired for lack of job performance. Good riddance. And a dozen other races in Kansas went to moderates, smacking ideologue governor Sam Brownback over the nose with a newspaper.

Could this be the beginning of the end of the crazy?

Later this afternoon, I'll have time to read...

The lede says it all

This evening's Times:

Back in 1968, at the age of 22, Donald J. Trump seemed the picture of health.

He stood 188 cm with an athletic build; had played football, tennis and squash; and was taking up golf. His medical history was unblemished, aside from a routine appendectomy when he was 10.

But after he graduated from college in the spring of 1968, making him eligible to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, he received a diagnosis that would change his path: bone spurs in his heels.

The diagnosis resulted in a coveted 1-Y medical deferment that fall, exempting him from military service as the United States was undertaking huge troop deployments to Southeast Asia, inducting about 300,000 men into the military that year.

The deferment was one of five Mr. Trump received during Vietnam.

And he has the chutzpah to call out John McCain?

Now, I disagree with almost all of McCain's policies, but I have to say, it would make me happy to stick Trump in Viet Cong prison camp for four years and see how he turns out.

All the political norms Trump has broken, all the taboos he's crapped on, all the damage he's inflicted on the American body politic...even if Hillary Clinton wins, is she just the finger in the dam? What happens in 2020? Are we going to go through all this again?

Another first-time-ever Trump loss

This year's Republican National Convention is the first one in modern times after which the nominee polled lower than before it:

Gallup has surveyed on this question since 1984, and the 2016 GOP convention was the first time where a candidate ended up in negative territory.

The voters who felt less likely to vote Trump after the convention outnumbered those who felt even more motivated for the GOP nominee, 51-36, according to a Gallup poll.

The closest a convention came to such unfavorable closing percentages was the 2012 RNC, when 40 percent of adults felt more likely to vote for Mitt Romney and 38 percent felt more wary after the convention, according to Gallup.

Meanwhile, Fallows' 66th Trump Time Capsule post has so many things in it I just can't list them all right now.

Sunday morning reading

Ah, I can finally take a few minutes to read through my backlog of articles, which have a common theme coming off this past week's events:

That, plus a tour of the Laguintas Brewery this afternoon (the one here, not the one in Petaluma), ought to keep me busy.