Economics, Politics, Religion

Constitutional Rot: A Thought Experiment

Free Photo: Dead Casualties, Russo-Japanese War

As more than three in four Republicans continue to support our dangerously unfit president, despite the daily accumulation of evidence that his unprecedented mental and emotional unwellness and incompetence threaten the security of our country, I find myself wondering: how much further can our democracy decline before it collapses? How much more steady constitutional rot can we sustain before there is a true constitutional crisis?

The greatest threat to the future of American democracy, I continue to believe, is the risk that there will be an attack on the United States or other mass-casualty catastrophe, such as an epidemic or cyberattack on critical infrastructure, during the Trump presidency. Whether or not Trump bears responsibility for the catastrophe, through his unfathomable incompetence or otherwise, it seems virtually inevitable that he will respond, as he characteristically does, by blaming his usual enemies—the press, the courts, immigrants, Muslims, and opposition political forces that may now include not only Democrats, women, and scientists, but apparently the FBI and the American intelligence community.

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Politics

Obama as Moderate 1990s Republican

I’m not the first person to make this point, but it’s worth reconsidering occasionally: in terms of policy substance, President Obama is in many ways indistinguishable from a moderate 1990s Republican. Despite all the feverish rage on the right directed toward Obama’s supposed radical socialism, the substance of most of the policies Obama supports are safely center-right by 1990s American measures. (Not to mention that by the standards of European politics, where parties explicitly advocating for socialism actually exist, Obama would simply be right-wing: consider his military policies, his support for the regressive status quo in education funding, his rejection of significantly higher taxes and lack of commitment to a significantly more generous safety net, and so on.) The usual and still best example of Obama’s 1990s Republicanism is, of course, the Affordable Care Act, which follows the same general approach to health care promoted by the Heritage Foundation and implemented by Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts.

But one implication of the notion of Obama as a moderate 1990s Republican, so far as I know, has not yet been explored.

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