We Have Nothing to Fear but Hope Itself

Occupied Wall Street, Time to Bern It Sign

There is a strange dialectic at work in Western society, or so it seems to me, between political apathy on the one hand and political rage on the other. In the recent French elections, for example, the rate of abstentions was the highest ever seen, more than half in the second round of the election of the legislature. But in the first round of the presidential election, the candidates of the extreme Left and extreme Right, both of whom drew their supporters by appealing to subliminal rage, had more votes than the eventual winner, a man previously almost unknown.

Read More

Vindicating Publius

A recent Washington Post analysis accuses President Trump of acting like a “king” speaking to “peasants” as he wages “war” on constitutional checks on his power.

Read More

On the “Present Embarrassments of America”

A common element in modern American politics is love for the outsider. The expectation, or at least the hope, that a person unsoiled by Washington can be sent there to sweep it clean (or to “drain the swamp” in current parlance). Hundreds of political campaigns, if not thousands, have promoted candidates centered on this theme. This theme figures prominently in American political mythology. Think of such films as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “The Farmer’s Daughter,” “Dave,” and others. The idea that competence will translate from different vocations into politics played a role in the election of most of the…

Read More

We Will Always Have Paris

The President’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord has caused international hyperventilation, and a minor rift in the Greve family. We all agree on three propositions: The U.S. should never agree to an international instrument that is called an “accord”: too French. A je suis d’accord that purports to save the planet by saying, vee all civilized nations may do what we may want to do by, say, 2030 or maybe later and if we don’t you can’t make us; and which then admits that even full compliance with its targets won’t make one whit of difference to…

Read More

Is French Cohabitation Coming to America?

assemble, nationale, dbat, dput, politique, paris

In France the President cannot appoint a cabinet of his own choosing, if the legislature is controlled by a majority of the opposition party. Instead, cohabitation results, where the prime minister and most of the cabinet members reflect the views of the party with a legislative majority as much as they do the President.  Thus, newly elected President Emmanuel Macron is running very hard to get a majority for his party, En Marche!, in the French General Assembly in the coming legislative elections.

Read More

Trump’s Electorate: Old or New?

A lot of the discussion of President Trump’s election interprets his election as reflecting a significant change in the American electorate. I don’t think so. We see precursors of the Trump coalition in Ross Perot’s presidential bid, and Pat Buchanan’s, and even Ronald Reagan’s. Nativists have been a crucial, if variable, part of the Republican coalition since before the Civil War. And support for protective tariffs were a common feature of Republican platforms through at least World War II.

Read More

The Stark Truth About Trump

In his Inaugural Address, President Trump intoned that “we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people.” He praised the “just and reasonable demands of a righteous people and a righteous public.”

The Trump rhetoric evoked a strain in all democratic politics, since such governments are indeed to follow in some sense the will of the people. But the populist conceit is that The People form a single and coherent whole whose mind is discernible, with the populist leader liable to claim clairvoyance as to what that mind holds.

Read More

Burning Down His House

White House Entrance

No man enters the presidency prepared for the office, yet few chief magistrates have managed a stage entry as startlingly rife with incompetence and impropriety as Donald Trump. The reason is that the inherent, inertial conservatism of the office disciplines most of its occupants.

Read More

Containing the Weapon of Mass Disruption

“[W]e expect he would work with Congress, as the Founders intended.” Scholars and Writers for America, Statement for Candidate Trump “We don’t have a lot of closers in politics and I understand why. It’s a very rough system. It’s an archaic system. You look at the rules of the Senate, even the rules of the House—but the rules of the Senate and some of the things you have to go through, it’s—it’s really a bad thing for the country, in my opinion. They’re archaic rules and maybe at some point we’re going to have to take those rules on because for the…

Read More

Desperation and the Conservative Bet on Trump

While containing an element to truth, the idea that Trump supporters, elite supporters, in particular, support Trump as a disruptor, as a way of “blowing things up,” strikes me as too negative, too destructive, of a spin on their aspirations for Trump. Reading Andrew Sullivan’s account of his meeting with Charles Kesler suggests a more-accurate picture. A model, to be sure, that still reflects a desperate gamble, but one that aspires not to destroy but to prevent destruction. Jack Hirshleifer and John G. Riley provide a clever setup to model desperation at the end of an early chapter of their book,…

Read More