Friday, February 26, 2016

Time for Americans to grow up

Dana Milbank makes a telling point about Donald Trump - he speaks at the level of a third grader.  And it works.  His sentences are simple, short, direct, emotional, uncomplicated.  He doesn't confuse anyone with policy or plans or details of any sort. He speaks in the broadest and simplest terms.  

And it is working for him.

But, my goodness, don't we need an adult with his finger on the nuclear button? Don't we need an adult to deal with what is really a very complicated world? Don't we need someone who actually is informed and knowledgeable?  

The problem, of course, is the Trump voters, who apparently are of the same level of maturity.  It's not that they, or he, are stupid, but just that they are childish.  This world is too dangerous for children to try to run this most powerful country.  

It is time for the adults in the electorate to assert themselves.  I have no liking far any of the Republican candidates, but it seems to me that Trump is the most immature of the lot.

When Trump promises to be a war criminal, or promises to end the first amendment protection of a critical press, he displays a strange kind of childishness.  He was, and still is, a spoiled trust fund brat. I believe that he has been so protected by his great wealth for all of his life that he has absolutely no sense of personal limits, and no sense of reality.  He has simply bullied and demanded and pouted and tantrumed his way through life without ever having to run into real consequences.  His money always allowed him to get away with it all.  

He reminds me of the Affluenza kid who got off with a light sentence after killing four people as a drunk driver.  His money protects him from consequences, he gets away with "murder" all the time.  He has no sense of limits on his behavior because he has gotten away with so much for all of his life.

OK, so Trump is a spoiled child.  And his supporters are angry children who don't want to be confused by things that make them think and understand complex things like policies or nuance of any sort.  But, goodness gracious, certainly the Republican Party has actual grown ups and adults who can assert themselves and stop this third grader with money and fame. 

Time is running out.  Time for the adults to take over.  Time for Americans to grow up.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Scalia's originalism vs the Constitution as a living document

Scalia's judicial philosophy was that cases brought before the Supreme Court were to be decided according to the original intent of the authors.  This sounded like a really good idea to me when I first heard it, but over time I have concluded that it is incomplete.  

It seems to me what needs to be preserved into perpetuity of the Constitution, Preamble, and Declaration of Independence are the broad principles of those founding texts, but not their literalness.  I believe that the principles are enduring, but the interpretation must be thought out for each generation.  

Simple example - the Declaration of Independence says "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal...".  This is a glorious statement about equality, not a statement about men.  

If you try to be stick to the original wording and decide that the Founding Fathers were referring only to men, not women, not black men or red men or yellow men or brown men, then you gut the most powerful statement of the purpose and meaning of America itself - equality.  But, if you realize that the Principle is Equality, then you must apply that principle to later understandings, which is that the real purpose of the statement is that "all humans are created equal..."  men is not the point, equality is the point.  

So, by deliberately ignoring the textualist/originalist narrow interpretation that only men are created equal, later generations applied the luminous imperative of equality to include women, blacks, reds, yellows, browns, and whites - as it should be, and as the deeper spirit and meaning of the Declaration of Independence demands.  

The Constitution IS a living document - the Principles of our sacred documents are enduring and are challenges for future generations to apply to future worlds. To limit interpretation to the circumstances of the 18th century could not have been the intent of the Founders. 

Scalia famously said:

"Would the American people have ratified the document if it said, the application of this document and what it means shall be whatever the Supreme Court says it means from age to age? Nobody — nobody would have ratified that document."

I would respond that on the contrary, would Americans have ratified the document if it said that the application of this document if it locked America into living the life, culture, technology, business practices, religious imperatives of the 18th century with no hope of change or progress?  I think nobody would have ratified that document.  The whole point of the founding of the United States was that it was to be, and is, a noble experiment in self government.  It was never conceived to be a trap to lock an expanding nation in a time warp.

At any rate, Scalia forced the Courts to pay attention to intent of the words, and his foes forced the courts to look at not only the words but the principles underneath the words.  The result are a couple of good guides to future courts.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Supreme Court Vacancy

With the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the political world has been thrown into a frenzy.  There is no doubt that Scalia’s influence on legal thinking has been profound – in two ways.  First, he was most famous for insisting on deciding cases before the Court based upon interpreting according to the original intent of the Constitution. Second, he was a leader in the charge by conservatives to rule conservatively on cases before him – from gun rights, to social issues, to business and labor issues. 

These two legacies are contradictory,of course, because you could easily conclude that by relying on original intent you would not end up with either conservative or liberal results on the whole.  But, Scalia and the other reliable conservative votes on the bench advertised themselves as jurists sworn not to legislate from the bench, but their actions have been pretty consistently politically predictable. Their claims of not legislating from the bench simply do not ring true.  

Should the Senate confirm a new Justice to replace Scalia?  Of course.  The voting public has voted already on who is supposed to nominate a Justice – Obama won two consecutive elections, fairly handily as a matter of fact.  So, there is no excuse for him to avoid his constitutional obligation to nominate a replacement.

Will the Senate confirm a new Justice to replace Scalia?  Of course not.  Republicans have been relying on Scalia, and his spot on the court, as a reliable judiciary arm of the conservative movement, and they clearly have no intention of letting that seat become liberal.

Will Republican obstructionism hurt the Republicans?  Yes, I believe it will hurt them in this election year, and hurt them pretty badly.  It will be easy for the President to nominate a center-left judge to replace Scalia who has already been easily approved of by the Senate in earlier confirmation hearings for a lower court.  For the Republicans to simply refuse to consider such a person, or to do their best to demonize that person for headline news stories all the way to the election will make them look really ridiculously partisan, obstructionist, petty, unwilling to play fair, and incapable of the trust of the American voters. 

The Republican Party could well go down on the sinking ship of Republican Senate ideological warfare.

It will certainly not be an uneventful political year.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Loser loses

Yesterday I wrote that I thought that for people to tell a pollster that they wanted Trump is very different than actually voting for Trump, and Iowa showed that to be so. The Des Moines Register had Trump with a 5 point lead, and it looks like he lost by 4 points instead. That is wonderful news as far as I'm concerned. Of course the terrible news is that he lost to Cruz, who scares me even more than Trump does. 

There is a very long way to go, and I am never sure how important Iowa is because it is caucuses rather than elections, and it certainly is not a representative cross section of America. But I will take a sigh of relief that The Loser lost. Not sure how long his ego will allow him to run if he doesn't feel adored.