Jack Ohman, “If Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan Talked Today,” The Sacramento Bee.
Jack Ohman, “If Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan Talked Today,” The Sacramento Bee.
From Marvin Olasky’s interview of Hadley Arkes:
[Olasky] What’s the major way students have changed in 50 years? [Arkes] One notable change: They have trouble doing sit-down exams and giving an account of what they’ve read. They have not been required to read closely. How does the writer’s argument move? What are the supporting points of evidence? How does he reach the culmination? They can’t do that, except the very best.
Would both major presidential candidates get an F on one of your exams? I don’t think I could get from Donald Trump a precise account of anything he reads. Hillary Clinton would give me the party line: Whatever the subject, we need gun control.
You say we have a choice between “the brutal sure thing,” Hillary Clinton, and “the wild card,” Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is not a question mark. For her and the left, the “right to abortion” is the first freedom, displacing freedom of religion and freedom of speech anchoring axioms.
You’re for the wild card, particularly because of Supreme Court appointments? I am, but it’s not merely about replacing justices. With Clinton, the lower federal courts that handle most of the cases—the points of first entry—will be filled with characters from the academic left who favor theories that ordinary folk take as bizarre.
* * *
Does [Trump] care about judges? I don’t think he cares overly much about the courts and the Supreme Court. He certainly hasn’t troubled to read much about them. He depends on other people. That’s one of the hazards here.
“Hadley Arkes: Life and politics” World (August 18, 2016) [link] (emphasis added).
I’m still not convinced — sounds more pragmatic than principled — but I have a good deal of respect for Professor Arkes (who has taught Political Philosophy at Amherst for 50 years).
Alan Jacobs writes this recent post:
“My friend Ross Douthat disagrees, mostly, with Avik Roy’s contention that the Republican Party is dead, but by contrast I suspect that Roy is too optimistic. He thinks that some kind of renewed GOP will eventually rise from the ashes, but I doubt that. I don’t think that the rise of Trump marked the end of the Republican Party as we know it, but rather that the party’s incoherent and brainlessly reflexive responses to Trump, whether positive or negative, were the equivalent of the last few electrochemical twitches of a corpse. The current donor base will pay for one or two more decades of artificial respiration, but no more, and I suspect that as early as 2024 the GOP will be completely irrelevant to American politics, at least at the national level.
At that point we’ll still have a two-party system, but the two parties will be the Neoliberal and the Socialist — basically, the two main wings of the current Democratic Party. And I’m not sure that, when that happens, we’ll be any worse off than we are now.
Alan Jacobs, “Two parties,” Snakes and Ladders (July 25, 2016) [link]. (That last line may be fairly discouraging to many, but I think AJ means it to be encouraging — it is not going to be much worse.)
Jacobs is referring to an article in Vox about Republican strategist Avik Roy’s dismal predictions regarding the GOP:
“The work of conservative intellectuals today, [Roy] argues, is to devise a new conservatism — a political vision that adheres to limited government principles but genuinely appeals to a more diverse America.
“I think it’s incredibly important to take stock,” he says, “and build a new conservative movement that is genuinely about individual liberty.”
Zack Beauchamp, “A Republican intellectual explains why the Republican Party is going to die,” Vox (July 25, 2016) [link].
I think believers can pray that an American political party will rise from the ashes that is committed to social justice as well as limited government. I wonder what it will be called? Compassionate Realism?
(or Why I can’t leave the Republican Party, yet)
It makes sense that political parties choose their own candidates — until it doesn’t.
In American politics, parties usually choose their candidates by primary voting and then each party’s winner competes in the general election. Everyone can vote in the general election, but usually only party members can vote in the primary.* This is plausible, in that fairness suggests that each party should have a chance at self-definition.**
Nevertheless, historically, there have been many times in which belonging to the minority party was tantamount to self-disenfranchisement. If you belonged to Party A, you could certainly vote in the general election, but the winner might be a foregone conclusion if Party A accounted for only a small percentage of the electorate. In such circumstances, the pragmatic strategy would be to join Party B so as to have a say in the primary election (where there might be two relatively strong candidates) rather than wait for an essentially meaningless general election.
In order to avoid this situation, there are times when primaries are open, such as when Party B puts up no candidate at all. In that situation, everyone can vote in the primary.***
Unless someone runs a write-in campaign and thus gets on the ballot for the general election.
That is actually occurring in Duval County in 2016, in two very important races — for State Attorney and for Public Defender. The incumbent State Attorney and incumbent Public Defender have highly publicized problems, mostly self-caused. These problems brought strong, well-qualified Republican opponents into each race.
However, in order to “protect” the incumbents, sham write-in candidates (“dummy candidates”) have entered the races to close the Republican primaries.
So I’ll keep my “R” until after the local primaries — these races are too important (and the choices are too clear) to stand on the sideline. My Trump-exit will have to wait.
*Open primaries, as are held in some circumstances, allow voting without regard to party affiliation.
**Most people would agree that it would be “unfair” for the Tea Party supporters at a University to all join the College Democrats and take over the College Democrats’ platform so as to undermine the “real” Democratic agenda. (It might not seem so unfair for the Tea Party group to try this with the College Republicans.)
***In Florida, we actually have a Constitutional provision to assure this. Florida Constitution, Article VI, Sec. 5(b) [link] (“If all candidates for an office have the same party affiliation and the winner will have no opposition in the general election, all qualified electors, regardless of party affiliation, may vote in the primary elections for that office.“)
****I know some lifelong Democrats who are going to change temporarily, too. It is actually pretty easy, but needs to be done soon.
George Will says he has left the Republican Party, and gives Republicans the following advice on Donald Trump:
Make sure he loses. Grit [your] teeth for four years and win the White House.
Daniella Diaz, “Conservative columnist George Will says he’s leaving GOP over Trump,” CNN.com (June 25, 2016) [link].
An interesting and frightening take on the 2016 election (in light of Plato, Sinclair Lewis, the Constitution, Eric Hoffer, and others), in which Andrew Sullivan says:
Trump tells the crowd he’d like to punch a protester in the face or have him carried out on a stretcher. No modern politician who has come this close to the presidency has championed violence in this way. It would be disqualifying if our hyperdemocracy hadn’t already abolished disqualifications.
Andrew Sullivan, “Democracies end when they are too democratic: And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny,” New York Magazine (May 2, 2016). [link]
This article is very long — and very worrisome — but well worth reading.
I did not realize that “No, I don’t” would strike a nerve like that. I may have had more political conversations in the last four days than in the prior four months.
The people who disagreed said two things that bear response, because they are right:
1. “You can’t restrict yourself to voting only for people with whom you agree 100%.” This is absolutely true. Most of the votes I have cast in my life have been for people I agreed with only in part. But isn’t there a limit to this? I have come to think that there is and that some candidates do not meet the minimum.*
2. “The next President is going two be able to appoint two Supreme Court justices, and that is going to affect the country for the next 25 years, not just the next four.” This is, if anything, too weak. President Obama is going to nominate Justice Scalia’s replacement, and the next President may well nominate replacements for the three remaining Justices who are over 75 years old. That is a huge turnover in the Court, and it is very important. Before 2020, the Court may well consist of Justices Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Sotomayer, Kagan and four people we have not heard of. Nevertheless, I think we are going to have to trust God, not the candidate, for these selections.**
In the end, that is my real point.
The Republican Party has entirely lost control of its process and the Democratic Party seems never to have guessed that a 74-year old Senator might not make a 68-year old former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State look energetic and youthful.
But God has not lost control of anything at all.
*Should I say “my minimum” to be completely clear? I am not telling anyone “You cannot vote for Donald Trump,” or “You cannot vote for Hillary Clinton.” Maybe they sufficiently reflect your values and your sense of right and wrong. I am saying “I cannot vote for either, and there is no spiritual duty to vote pragmatically.”
**Of course, many Presidents have found that it is hard to guess how their Supreme Court appointments will turn out. Eisenhower was supposed to have said that his two biggest mistakes were sitting on the Supreme Court — Earl Warren and William Brennan. These things are not entirely within human control.
How many times have we all heard that it is our civic responsibility to vote, that if we are unhappy with our choices we have to make a pragmatic choice and pick the lesser of two evils?
I reject that position.
First, because you and I have a responsibility to do good and to worship God. There are real ethical dilemmas, but we must do good, not evil.
Second, because we don’t have only two choices, we have at least five. Assuming that things go as the polls suggest, we will all have a choice between the Democratic candidate, the Republican candidate, a variety of third-party candidates, a write-in candidate, or not voting. No matter which candidates the parties offer us, one of the latter two options would be permissible. (Of course, I am well aware that not voting is not practical. I do not put much stock in practicality when it is weighed against morality.)
Third, because the GOP, at least, needs to understand that this is unacceptable. Mr. Trump reflects rage and dissatisfaction, not statesmanship and leadership. (Ms. Clinton, to be fair, reflects the mainstream of the Democratic Party leadership, whether or not she reflects the core of the general population.)
Fourth, because I believe that there is power in prayer, and that God’s plans don’t develop along election cycles. Maybe this is exactly what’s necessary to bring both parties back to sanity and civility. Maybe this is what’s necessary to get believers to pray for those in power.*
Finally, there is still something that can be done — perhaps you can still vote in a primary against a candidate by voting for an acceptable candidate who is in second place. Perhaps you can write your political party and explain why they have lost your vote or registration. To be clear, if the Republican Party nominates Mr. Trump, I will change my registration to Independent. It is becoming increasingly difficult to accept that in any sense the GOP is representing me.
I have to vote?
No, I don’t.
I need to pray.
*1 Timothy 2:1-4 (ESV): “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, or kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior. who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Here’s the question. Do we have a civic duty (or a spiritual duty) to vote? What if our two-party system gives us two politically/morally/spiritually unacceptable candidates? What then?
One answer is given by Russell Moore in “Should Christians Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?” Christianity Today (Mar. 2, 2016) [link].
“This side of the New Jerusalem, we will never have a perfect candidate. But we cannot vote for evil, even if it’s our only option.”
The article is very short. I want to write something over the weekend, but that might be a good place to start the thought process.
Max Lucado on Donald Trump. Max Lucado is not really known for confrontational rhetoric, which makes this all the more sobering. Max Lucado, “Decency for President” (Feb. 24, 2016) [link].