Thursday, July 18, 2019
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Reconstructing American Politics

Music to my ears. Stephen Skowronek, a political scientist at Yale, has provided some useful insights into the relationship between presidents and political parties over the course of American history. In what he called the "politics of political time," he noted that such surprising pairings as Carter and Reagan could help us see deeper patterns in the development of American politics. Individual presidencies exist within a matrix of ambition, opportunity and strategic constraints. I found it pretty useful for thinking about the relationship between presidents and judges and the contours of American constitutionalism as well. Some presidents, which Skowronek called reconstructive, are able to significantly remake American politics, reorganizing ideological commitments, political interests and public policy in ways that leave a lasting impression on the political landscape. The politics that characterize other presidencies are defined, in part, by their relationship to those reconstructive moments. Corey Robin, Julia Azari, and Jack Balkin have pointed out that the Donald Trump presidency looks much like the politics of disjunction. Trump happily casts aside some of the intellectual, electoral and political constituents of the old Reagan coalition while trying to draw in his own set of Trump Democrats. They may well be right that the Republican Party that emerges from the present moment will bear the mark of Donald Trump rather than that of Ronald Reagan.

Conservatives Give Trump a Pass for Referencing Genocide to Mock Elizabeth Warren

Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!” Today Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President. Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2019 Of course, most of the reaction to Trump’s tweet was centered around his callous and purposeful use of “TRAIL,” a reference to the genocidal forced relocations of Native Americans in the 19th Century referred to as Trail of Tears. So, when CNN’s Jake Tapper asked the congresswoman about Trump’s tweet, she ignored his question and went about blasting Warren, calling her a “laughingstock.” . @jaketapper: “What about the language the President uses and the joking references to genocide against Native Americans?”@RepLizCheney: "Elizabeth Warren has made herself a laughingstock.” #CNNSOTU — State of the Union (@CNNSotu) February 10, 2019 Ignoring or excusing any and all things racist that Trump utters is par for the course for most Republicans — politicians and commentators alike. Even someone like Cheney, whom Tapper points out, has a large number of Native Americans in her state, can’t bring herself to be critical of him. Jeez. — Brit Hume (@brithume) February 10, 2019 Trump’s most recent tweet and his constant use of Pocahontas, a racist slur he uses when referring to Warren is not an accident.

America Descends Into the Politics of Rage

The rise of organized party politics in the so-called Age of Jackson brought with it an aggressive anger-spiked style of political warfare. The bullying power of Southern entitlement showed its full force in Congress. Representative John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts deliberately tried to put Southerners “in a blaze” over the issue of slavery. When it came to congressional combat, Northerners weren’t fighting men of the same sort as Southerners. And in time, that logic spread. The intensification of the nation’s ongoing slavery crisis fueled a spike in Southern bullying in Congress, and that anger proved contagious. The telegraph circulated news from Washington with remarkable speed, confronting increasing numbers of Americans with images of raging slaveholders holding dominion in Congress. Rage begat rage, and Northern noncombatants became fighting men, making cross-sectional discourse ever more difficult. Such is the impact of a politics of anger. But bullying power holders often pay a price, fueling a backlash through the contagion of rage.