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The curious case of the landslide underdogs

By Daniel M. Ryan
web posted February 13, 2017

Dangers to representative government. — Whenever the republican form of government has not achieved success the difficulty has not been with the system but with its faulty application.

Several dangerous experiments have been proposed, such as the initiative, referendum, recall, and the election of judges. Departures from constitutional principles threaten to impair the efficiency of our representative form of government, and if continued, will ultimately destroy it.

It would be easy for me to claim that these words appeared in the most recent issue of The Atlantic, the liberals’ answer to the “Against Trump” issue of National Review. But they didn’t: they come from the War Department Training Manual on Citizenship, issued on November 30th, 1928. It’s the same Manual that President Roosevelt ordered destroyed, in part because it has some not-so-nice things to say about democracy.

A similar sentiment pervades David Frum’s "How to Build an Autocracy" and Jonathan Rauch’s “Containing Trump.” Both writers, this being the Current Year, are not as forthright as the author(s) of the Manual. They certainly do not warn us that democracy is “A government of the masses.” that results in “mobocracy” and whose attitudes “toward property is communistic — negating property rights.... [and] toward law is that the will of the majority shall regulate, whether it be based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice, and impulse, without restraint or regard to consequences.” and whose results are “demagogism, license, agitation, discontent, anarchy.” Nope: this being the Current Year, they instead claim that President Trump is a danger to democracy and in keeping with a world trend of decline in faith for democracy.

Rauch is thorough and careful. He does admit that several presidents - Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Bush Jr., Eisenhower, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Reagan, Obama (several times) - have also stretched the Constitution's limits. But instead of saying that it's a bipartisan problem, he punts off the ball by concluding "Context is everything." In other words, it’s once again pick-and-choose time.

In accordance with this spirit, the Ninth Circuit applied pick-and-choose reasoning when it upheld that injunction against President Trump’s travel ban from seven countries that the Obama Administration had designated trouble spots. More than one commentator has recognized that the Ninth Circuit didn't even bother to cite the statute that the Trump Administration cited as its authority for the ban. Overflowing with flowery language about principle, the Circuit handed a win to not only the states of Washington and Minnesota but also Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and other multi-billion companies that are part of what Mr. Rauch calls “civil society.” Much like the Chicago Tribune in Col. McCormack’s day was part of civil society, as well as part of the free press.

In the abstract, one of the great mysteries of 1930s America was the sight of the Democrat Party enjoying not only the Presidency but also landslide majorities in the House and Senate – all the while tub-thumping about how they were tribunes of the underdog with an air that suggested they themselves were underdogs too. Landslide-majority underdogs versus the forces of reaction that commanded only small minorities. The situation today isn’t the same, but there are some definite similarities. Trump commanded a landslide-level win of counties, in a pattern that starkly shows the divide between Metrosexual America and Rustic America. Republicans have majorities in both the House and Senate, though far from landslide level in the latter. More significantly, they have clear dominance at the state level. And yet, they credibly say that they’re the Tribunes of the Underdog.

And look at how the progs are reacting to the Trump Administration. It’s like the George W. Bush years all over again, a time when progs settled into a habit of saying lots of mean things about George W. Bush and his Cabinet. True to this partisanized age, all of those mean things disappeared down the memory hole when Conservatives started saying mean things about President Obama.

After all, “Context is Everything.” If you want a continuity-centered perspective that sees how the hostility directed towards President Obama grew out of the earlier hostility towards President Bush, you’ll have to do some pick-and-choose of your own.

Progs On Defense

It’s been noted by Vox Day for one that the progs, particularly the SJW variant, are all attack and no defence – prompting the question, “what would they be like if they were paying defence?” We’re finding out now. In fact, Mr. Rauch, in his apparent nostalgia for the good old days of the Bush Administration, has been good enough to spell out how:

"What happened next, says Jack Goldsmith, a veteran of the Bush Justice Department, was unprecedented pushback from 'giant distributed networks of lawyers, investigators, and auditors, both inside and outside the executive branch.' Goldsmith, now a professor at Harvard Law School, discusses the phenomenon in his 2012 book, Power and Constraint:

These forces swarmed the government with hundreds of critical reports and lawsuits that challenged every aspect of the President’s war powers. They also brought thousands of critical minds to bear on the government’s activities, resulting in bestselling books, reports, blog posts, and press tips that shaped the public’s view of presidential action and informed congressional responses, lawsuits, and mainstream media reporting.

In response, the Supreme Court and Congress weighed in to regulate and constrain Bush’s powers, and the result is a detention process that has its controversial aspects but fits comfortably within our constitutional norms.

“Civil society had a huge and unprecedented impact during the Bush administration,' Goldsmith told me. The networks that constrained Bush are still there, and Trump has put them on red alert. “Every single thing he does will be scrutinized with an uncharitable eye,” Goldsmith said. “That’s true of most presidents, but it’s true to an even greater degree with Trump.”

So there we have it. “Civil society” - meaning lawyers, paid protesters, liberal academics, the MSM: the usual cliques – got in the way of the Bush Administration. All of them relied, to put it undiplomatically, on obstruction. Pick-and-choose with the eye of a historian, and you can produce a well-cited paper that shows how Ted Cruz and the other shut-down Pubbies were simply following in the wake of “civil society” in the Bush years.

True: progs on defense has revealed the usual habit of employing slipshod reasoning when one wants a certain outcome very, very much. (One of the unintentionally humorous parts of the Ninth Circuit’s conduct was them allowing President Trump’s campaign statements into evidence as proof of intent! I wonder what Finley Peter Dunne’s Mr. Dooley would make of that.)

But they’ve revealed a defence-play that’s important to keep in mind: plain stubbornness. That’s right: a prog is a stubborn fellow. Look at the now-leaked plans of EPA bureaucrats, amongst other Executive-Branch bureaucrats, to drag their feet as much as possible without getting fired. This stubbornness have even got a cute new name: “slow-walking.” Since Context is Everything, they prefer not to be called a mean word like “obstructionist.” Not to mention a meaner word that was applied to General MacArthur during the Truman Administration.

True: the progs will justify their stubbornness by saying they're defending what they call human rights, which include some (but not all) Constitutional rights. They have a right to do so, of course. Even if an outside observer wonders if it’s wise for them to go full-blast high-nosed obstructionist as a defence against Trumpian populism.

Yep, the Current Year has a side that can be described as unintentionally humorous – or something else. While certain parts of the MSM are trying to salvage the fake-news dossier published by Buzzfeed, we see the Mexican government has allocated fifty million bucks to an assistance fund for Mexican illegals facing deportation. And, a group of politically influential Mexicans - yes, Mexicans – are bankrolling ad campaigns urging illegal immigrants to fight their deportations in court. And yet we’re supposed to believe that it was the Kremlin that interfered in the last election, perhaps because that campaign led by that group of top-level Mexicans have not been officially endorsed by the Mexican government. Context is everything, righty-right? ESR

Daniel M. Ryan, as Nxtblg, is shepherding the independently-run Open Audi Initiative Prediction Market Shadowing Project. He has stubbornly assumed all the responsibility and blame for the workings and outcome of the project.

 

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