Current Comment #9

A weekly recap of worthwhile political opinion and social commentary.

Vol 1, No 9 ……… November 14th, 2020

THE WEEK JUST PASSED ~ Joe Biden continues to act presidential, while Donald Trump continues to act puerile. No surprise on either count!

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Selection #1 – Political scientist and New York Times guest opinion columnist Bryan Garsten argues forcefully that each of us needs to renew our personal commitment to a “Constitutional culture” if we hope to avoid a future presidential demagogue like the one we have just voted out of office …

“Mr. Trump is a creature native to our own style of government and therefore much more difficult to protect ourselves against: He is a demagogue, a popular leader who feeds on the hatred of elites that grows naturally in democratic soil. We have almost forgotten how common such creatures are in democracies because we have relied on a technology designed to restrain them: the Constitution. It has worked by setting up rules for us to follow, but also on a deeper level by shaping our sense of what we are proud of and what we are ashamed of in our common life. Today this constitutional culture has all but collapsed, and with it, our protection against demagogues. The college-educated elite and well-meaning technocrats may say that expert rule is the only alternative to demagogues, but they are wrong. When we allow them to rule, we fuel popular frustration and drive people into the arms of demagogues in reaction. The real alternative is to strengthen our ability to govern ourselves well by supporting the kinds of schools and jobs that train us in the habits of citizenship, by creating the background conditions in which we can solve more problems in our families and communities, and by reforming electoral systems and legislative procedures to strengthen the incentives for politicians to move beyond demagogy. Too many of us are guilty of prioritizing immediate policy outcomes over the work of maintaining a system of self-government that will bring out the best in us over the long term.”

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Selection #2 – New Yorker editor David Remnick takes a deep breath in to consider the daunting challenges awaiting President-elect Joe Biden, and a deep breath out to reflect upon the myriad disasters that might well have accrued under a re-elected President Trump …

“There can be no overstating the magnitude of the tasks facing Biden. If he survives whatever challenges, legal and rhetorical, that Trump throws his way in the coming days and weeks, he will begin his term facing a profoundly polarized country, one even more divided and tribal than the polls have suggested. It is a nation in which one half cannot quite comprehend the other half. He also confronts a country that is suffering from an ever-worsening pandemic, an ailing economy, racial injustice, and a climate crisis that millions refuse to acknowledge. The end of the Trump Presidency is, by any measure, a signal moment in modern American history. These four years have wrought tragic consequences; there is no question that another four would have compounded the damage immeasurably. Throughout his term, Trump openly waged war on democratic institutions and deployed a politics of conspicuous cruelty, bigotry, and division. He turned the Presidency into a reality show of lurid accusation and preening self-regard. But what finally made him vulnerable to defeat was his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly a quarter of a million Americans. His disdain for scientific and medical expertise, his refusal to endorse even the most rudimentary preventive measures against the spread of the virus, was, according to medical experts, responsible for the needless deaths of tens of thousands.”

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Selection #3 – New York Times opinion columnist Thomas Friedman calls for a restoration of truth-telling after the endless lies of the Trump administration …

People who do not share truths can’t defeat a pandemic, can’t defend the Constitution and can’t turn the page after a bad leader. The war for truth is now the war to preserve our democracy.

“It is impossible to maintain a free society when leaders and news purveyors feel at liberty to spread lies without sanction. Without truth there is no agreed-upon path forward, and without trust there is no way to go down that path together. The truth binds you, and Trump never wanted to be bound — not in what he could ask of the president of Ukraine or say about the coronavirus or about the integrity of our election. And it nearly worked. Trump proved over five years that you could lie multiple times a day — multiple times a minute — and not just win election but almost win re-election. We have to ensure that the likes of him never again appear in American politics.”

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THE WEEK AHEAD ~ The transition to a Biden presidency will continue in a mature and reasonable fashion, while the whining and false charges that “the election was stolen” will continue to spew from the mouth of Trump and his enablers. The big concern for now is whether or not Trump will succeed in persuading a number of Republican-dominated state legislatures to appoint replacement electors to their states’ Electoral College delegations in order to overturn the popular pro-Biden decision when the official electoral votes are tabulated on December 14th. Still much to worry about, unfortunately.

If you’d like a head start reading the articles that will be featured in next week’s Current Comment, and you have a Twitter account, please follow @LiberalBuddhist.

In the meantime, take good care of yourselves and stay well … Tom


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