Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Founders and Republican Government


The Founders and Republican Government
Peter Schultz

            The questions are straightforward: Did the founders – the Federalists – intend to create a “government”or a “republic?” And what is the difference?

            The Federalists wanted to establish “a government” rather than “a republic.” How do I know? Because among other items, their new arrangement of power was without term limits. Absent such limits, it was almost guaranteed that a permanent governing class would arise. That is, politics would be “professionalized” as we might say today. A permanent, professional governing class would characterize the new order in the United States.

            A republic, on the other hand, does not, cannot have a permanent, professional governing class. In a republic, terms limits are absolutely essential in order to ensure that the government not displace or refine – as the Federalists put it – the popular will. For example, in a republic an institution like the Supreme Court, with its permanent and life-long justices wielding significant power would be impossible. The same might be said about a senate that was not apportioned according to population, and where senators had long terms and no term limits.

            The point is this: As the Anti-Federalists were wont to point out, human beings have a choice: They can create governments, that is, arrangements of power that essentially displace the popular will, or they can create republics where the popular will controls the government. Or, to use another distinction: Political arrangements can rest on FORCE or they can rest on CONSENT. Governments rest on the force of law, the force of bureaucracy, or of a military. Republics rest on consent, especially on the consent of the people, even or especially in the day-to-day affairs of the nation. “Popular government” is something of an oxymoron because all governments rest on force, not consent. It is safer, as Machiavelli put it, to be feared than loved because fear is not based on consent.

             Hence, we need less government today, but not in the sense meant by our faux conservatives. They want smaller government but still want, even crave permanent government; that is, they want a small government that rests on force, not consent. They are not populists, not in the least. They are elitists who wish to embed, permanently, their idea of “the elite” in the government, thereby displacing the popular will. The real issue is not “more” or “less” government. The real issue is permanent government or a republic. A republic gets my vote.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Why I Now Say: "Fuck Patriotism!"


Why I Now Say “Fuck Patriotism!”
Peter Schultz

            The counterinsurgency paradigm has come home. Today, all three central strategies of counterinsurgency have been turned back on the American people. Americans are now caught in total information awareness. American Muslims and other minorities have become the active minority that is targeted for elimination. And it is, more broadly, the American people whose hearts and minds are being sought.” [The Counterrevolution by Bernard E. Harcourt, p. 143]

            Without a revolution to oppose, our political establishment is pursuing a counterrevolution encapsulated in “the counterinsurgency paradigm” that is being used abroad to fight the war on terror. And patriotism underlies each of the three central strategies of this paradigm.

            First, patriotism requires that “if you see something, say something!” That is, patriotism requires us, each of us, to be vigilant; but not toward the government and the powerful as in classic republican politics, but toward others and “the other.” Hence, and this is second, this means patriotism requires us, each of us, to be especially vigilant toward those minorities – blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, protestors  – who are deemed to be dangerous, even revolutionary. Such vigilance requires “a heightened sense” of how these minorities are different from “mainstream” Americans. Hence, at least a little racism is useful in the service of vigilance. “If you see something, say something, especially if what you see involves these dangerous minorities.”

            Third, patriotism requires that our “hearts and minds” be devoted to the “homeland,” that we revere its symbols. No longer is our allegiance to the republic for which the flag stands, but rather to the homeland whether it be republican nor not. Thus, patriotism has replaced citizenship, which was a main part of the script of republicanism. Citizens, unlike patriots, are expected to challenge, to be vigilant toward the government, toward the powerful, and not to others or “the other.” Moreover, citizens were not expected to genuflect before government or its officials. Whenever the government runs up the flag, a patriot salutes, whereas a citizen first asks “Why?” Then, maybe, a citizen salutes. Maybe not. A citizen’s heart and mind is her own, whereas a patriot’s heart and mind belong to the homeland: “America: Love it or leave it.” Something no citizen would ever say!  

            And that is why I now say: “Fuck patriotism!”

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Why Kavanaugh Was Sure to Win


Why Kavanaugh Was Sure To Win
Peter Schultz

            Victims or victimizers? That is the question. Who are the victims and who are the victimizers? Answers to these questions resonate throughout our political and social orders.

            According to Dr. Ford and other “survivors” of sexual crimes, they are the victims. They have been sexually assaulted and have suffered and suffer as a result. They want, they demand recognition and at least some justice.

            On the other hand, Kavanaugh, et. al., claim to be the victims. Kavanaugh claimed he was being victimized by the Clintons and by a vast and pervasive “left-wing conspiracy composed of, as Trump put it, “evil Democrats.”

            Now, given that Kavanaugh et. al. represent at least one part of the ruling class, it became incumbent that he and they should win. Otherwise, it would be all too easy and likely that our ruling class would be deemed the victimizers and not the victims. The curtain would be lifted, ala’ the Wizard of Oz, revealing the predatory character of the establishment. This is a revelation that no political and social order can tolerate, especially in a place where “the republic” survives, at least as an aspiration. The predatory character of the ruling class must be disguised, must be hidden behind such myths, as that successful, ambitious, and politically involved men cannot be sexual predators. That would be outrageous and so Kavanaugh played at being outraged. It was quite a performance and is now being credited with saving his nomination.

            Make no mistake: The charade just concluded served to fortify the ruling class, which of course includes Democrats as well as Republicans. Hence, the Democrats, while still protesting the process by which Kavanaugh was confirmed, will not protest his use of the Constitution to advance the Republican agenda. After all, it is what they want Supreme Court Justices to do with their agenda. And eventually, the Kavanaugh “fiasco” will be put to rest when the Democrats announce, “it is time to move on.” This “battle” will be viewed as an aberration, just another moment when our political order went haywire. And, of course, we should regret that now. As George Bush might say: “Mission Accomplished!”

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The "Wonderfulness" of Susan Collins


The “Wonderfulness” of Susan Collins
Peter Schultz

            All of a sudden the role Susan Collins played in the Kavanaugh nomination hearings came into view. Note first the result of her role. She has replaced, by and large, Christine Ford as the woman at the center of this “drama.” What a neat trick, no? To replace a survivor, a woman who was traumatized by a sexual assault with a woman who played the role of a civics teacher for the nation. No wonder conservatives and even some moderates rallied round Collins. It was a drama worthy of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

            So what was required of Collins to make the star of this drama? Well, first, she had pretend that her mind was not made up, that she had not, until a very late hour, decided to support Kavanaugh. Very un-Trump like. By doing so, Collins underwrote both her alleged “moderation” and her alleged “thoughtfulness.” And, of course, she could also seem to play the role of a lone woman, a brave woman confronting the patriarchy that is the Republican Party.

            Then, when she had allegedly “made up her mind,” based of course on a close inspection of the evidence, Collins had to wrap her decision in the guise of a civics lesson. She was doing what any “civic minded” person would do, even though she might have to pay the ultimate price – losing her Senate seat. As a result, Collins appeared as the woman confronting danger, not Dr. Ford or, by the way, other survivors, and doing so because it was her “civic duty.” So, Dr. Ford’s claim to be doing her civic duty was pushed off stage and, viola, “a star is born,” ala’ that Mr. Smith who went to Washington!

            How wonderful! It is a wonderful life Susan Collins is living – and the rest of us should join in. After all, apparently we only needed civics lessons and we don’t need to worry about sex crimes after all. And isn’t that nice? It isn’t only Catholic priests who turn away from, ignore sex crimes and their perpetrators.

            Of course, quite a few saw through this charade as it unfolded, e.g., John Oliver. I did not although I did see that this whole “drama” was no more real than the alleged attempt by Republicans to impeach and remove Bill Clinton from office. [They had no intention to make Al Gore president. DUH.] But then most of our politics involves smoke and mirrors and the creation of Frank Capra like heroes and heroines. Isn’t it a wonderful life?

Friday, October 5, 2018

American Politics: Fiascos Galore


American Politics: Fiascos Galore
Peter Schultz

            So many people seemed to have been genuinely shocked about “the fiasco,” as some of them called it, revolving around Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. It was as if these people were shocked that there could be a political fiasco within the American political order. And this, to me, is really quite interesting as our politics is and has been characterized by one fiasco after another.

            This isn’t even the first fiasco revolving around a Supreme Court nomination, as the same controversy arose over Robert Bork’s nomination and, of course, over Clarence Thomas’ nomination. So what’s new here? Not much. Just more of the same old same old. Same shit, different day.

            Moreover, there have been numerous other fiascos as well. I guess these shocked people have forgotten about Bill Clinton and Jenifer Flowers and Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky or about Clinton’s impeachment. Apparently they have also forgotten about the recession of 2008, Bush’s invasion of Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction that did not exist, not to mention 9/11 itself, which seems to me ought to top the list of any American fiascos, right up there with Pearl Harbor. And why isn’t 9/11 seen as a governmental fiasco? The government and more particularly the administration of George W. Bush failed to protect the nation. Seems like a fiasco to me.

There was also the fiasco of the Vietnam War and of the current 17 year long war in Afghanistan. There was also Carter’s fiasco in the desert as he tried to rescue Americans held hostage in Iran, whose taking was yet another fiasco. There was the fiasco of not being able to protect a president when JFK was killed and another one when Reagan was almost taken out by a gunman. I could go on but what’s the point of that? If it isn’t clear that our political order has produced a series of fiascos to you by now, more examples will not persuade you

            The truth is we or at least some of us like to think that each new fiasco represents aberrant political behavior because such fiascos almost never occur in the good old US of A. In fact, just the reverse is the case, even to the point that one must begin to wonder whether our politicians are adverse to fiascos. After all, after 9/11 as after JFK’s failure at the Bay of Pigs, Bush’s popularity ratings went through the roof! As JFK said after the Bay of Pigs, “The more you screw up the more the people like you.” Yes, indeed they do as confirmed by the response to the attacks on 9/11. Interesting, isn’t it? It might be worth pondering instead of beating our chests and wailing about how horrible the Kavanaugh nomination scene was.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Losing: Not Always Bad Politically


Losing: Not Always Bad Politically
Peter Schultz

            Most commentary on the current “crisis” regarding Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court takes it for granted that the Democrats really want to “win” this battle and deny Kavanaugh a seat on the court. I think, however, that that could be an assumption that is not warranted, just as it is unwarranted to think that our two political parties want to win each and every election.

            There have been numerous elections where a political party does want to win an election or is content to lose. In 1912, William Howard Taft and the mainstream Republicans preferred to lose that presidential election to the Democrats and Woodrow Wilson rather than win it with Teddy Roosevelt as their candidate. In a more contemporary vein, I was interested to see that while Republicans in Massachusetts could not elect one Republican to the House of Representatives they could elect governors, e.g., Bill Weld. Maybe that is because to elect members to the House of Representatives, the mainstream Republicans would have to nominate Republicans who would undermine their power, whereas electing a governor does not constitute that kind of threat.

            Moreover, other losses, e.g., the Vietnam War, have not harmed those who wanted to wage and win that war. In fact, since that defeat those who are in favor of militarizing our foreign policy are more popular than ever. And there is some evidence that those who waged that war suspected that this would be the result especially insofar as the US went “all in” in waging that war. Furthermore, we have been waging war in Afghanistan for at least 17 years – and so it cannot be said that we are “winning” that war – and yet the fact that we haven’t been able to win that war has done nothing to weaken those in favor of a militaristic foreign policy. If anything, those favoring such a foreign policy have been strengthened. And, of course, I need not point out that the “failure” on 9/11 has done nothing but strengthen the hands of those who advocate a full bodied militaristic foreign policy.

            Why point out this phenomenon now? Well, because it is a bit naïve to assume that the Democrats would be unhappy with Kavanaugh being successful in his bid to become a Supreme Court Justice. The Democrats, having “fought the good fight,” as it were, can try to turn this “defeat” into a “victory” in the upcoming midterm elections and the 2020 presidential election. Moreover, they can do this without having to change any of their agenda or support people who would challenge the status quo, viz., the insurgents in the party.

            So there are benefits that will accrue to the Democrats even if Kavanaugh is confirmed, most generally a strengthening of that party without requiring it to “change its stripes.” Hence, my prediction that Kavanaugh will be confirmed, and the Democrats will raise “holy hell,” even while grinning all “the way to the bank.”

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Trump's Shooting Gallery Politics

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Trump’s Shooting Gallery Politics
Peter Schultz

            At every carnival I ever attended, there has always been a shooting gallery where for a few bucks you can try to knock over enough targets to win a prize of some kind, a teddy bear or a doll. And this seems to me a pretty good description of
Trump’s politics, shooting gallery politics.

            Trump has targets that he aims at, some more often than others. Some of Trump’s targets are immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, Europeans, North Korea, China, proponents of global warming, teachers and other public employees, John McCain, Jeff Sessions, Robert Mueller, all Democrats and some Republicans. And Trump’s ammunition is his tweets, which he fires off at his convenience. Trump practices shooting gallery politics and as might be expected given how often he shoots, he is pretty good at it.

            But there are limitations, defects in shooting gallery politics. One defect is that it is impossible to “kill” enough targets to “win,” as is obvious from the global war on terror and its “targeted killings.” No matter how many targets one kills, more targets always appear and the killing must go on. As shooting gallery proprietors know, “the game” is endless. At best, one wins some relatively worthless prize, like a teddy bear or another “tweet battle.”

            Another defect in shooting gallery politics is that there is no overarching goal. FDR promised the American people a “New Deal” while LBJ promised them a “Great Society.” As a result of these overarching projects. FDR’s and LBJs actions did not seem random. They were not taking “pot shots” at different and apparently random appearing targets. FDR and LBJ had “enemies,” of course, but it was relatively clear who the enemies were and why they were enemies.

            As a result, FDR and LBJ would make speeches about their political projects, speaking in paragraphs in order to persuade, whereas Trump sends out tweets that often take on the characteristics of what are called “tweet storms.” These tweet storms are not intended to persuade but to overwhelm. Trump’s tweets are used as ammunition, much like how many right-wingers use information. There is no attempt to engage, to create the conditions for discourse, but merely to overwhelm with “facts.”

            Shooting gallery politics is incompatible with republican or popular politics insofar as republican or popular politics requires public discourse, public debate, and public engagement. By embracing shooting gallery politics, Trump shows he has no interest in public discourse, public debate, or public engagement. He aspires to despotism as he is anything but a republican.