Monday, March 21, 2016

What Merrick Garland And Donald Trump Have In Common

[Warning:  I'm just letting my brain work out a bit here.  I'm trying to puzzle out some meaning from the bizarre stories we get from the so called news these days.  Consider these rough notes on strange times for future reference.]

Basically, the Republican establishment is doing all they can to block both their nominations.

Part 1:  What little birdie is tweeting into Sen. McConnell's ear?

McConnell has stated (in slightly different words) that the constitution gives the president only three years per term and so the president shouldn't put forward a nomination to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.  And so the Senate will not hold hearings on the nomination of Merrick Garland.  Where is this specious argument coming from?
  • The Federalist Society which has been working so hard to take over US judgeships in order to get courts to take stronger pro-business, anti-regulation decisions?  I can understand their frustration as their years of planning and grooming look wasted as the Republican party implodes.  
  • CEO's who have court cases coming up before the Supreme Court?  As I understand it, a new justice wouldn't be able to weigh in on cases that have been argued already at the Supreme Court.  But there are plenty more cases in the pipeline.  This would make the most sense because these are people who have a short term interest in not having one more liberal judge on the court before their case gets heard.  
Think Progress writes:
"McConnell responded that he 'can’t imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm, in a lame duck session, a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association [and] the National Federation of Independent Businesses.'”
They'd never want to do that, but sometimes you have to do things you'd rather not do.

The article then goes on to discuss the court cases the NRA and NFIB have had before the Supreme Court and how they are trying to get the court to approve something Congress explicitly voted down.  I'm sure other groups with such interests in the composition of the Supreme Court have access to McConnell and his friends.

Otherwise, I can't fathom McConnell's logic, as he argues today that Garland's nomination won't be heard even after the November elections.   But I know most things make sense when you know all the details.  Maybe if we knew who McConnell lunches with and what they tell him we'd understand this better.

There's got to be more to McConnell than most of us get to see.  He's been married to two strong women.   His first wife was Sherrill Redmon who is a feminist scholar and was the head of Smith College's women's collection.  His second wife is Taiwan born, former Bush Secretary of Labor and head of the Peace Corps, Elaine Chao.

What he says about Garland makes little sense, except when you're surrounded by people who reinforce your skewed view of the world.  After all, it doesn't look like, at this point, the Republicans are going to retake the White House.  If we get the second President Clinton, she'll likely appoint a more liberal candidate.  And if the Republican party continues on its current track, the Democrats could retake the Senate.  One letter writer in the LA Times, suggested President Clinton could appoint the soon to be out-of-work Barack Obama.  But he might have to recuse himself in cases arising from his administration, so that probably isn't a good idea.

Or maybe McConnell's buddies are planning a coup after the November elections, but then getting rid of a Supreme Court justice or two would be a minor problem.

Part 2:  And then the New York Times reports:
"Republican leaders adamantly opposed to Donald J. Trump’s candidacy are preparing a 100-day campaign to deny him the presidential nomination, starting with an aggressive battle in Wisconsin’s April 5 primary and extending into the summer, with a delegate-by-delegate lobbying effort that would cast Mr. Trump as a calamitous choice for the general election."
Who are these 'Republican leaders"?  The article doesn't say much.  In normal times, one would think that a Republican Senate Majority leader would be one of them, but McConnell is never mentioned.  We get:
  • " William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, has circulated a memo to a small number of conservative allies detailing the process by which an independent candidate could get on general-election ballots across the country."
  • "David McIntosh, president of the conservative Club for Growth, which has spent millions on ads attacking Mr. Trump, said his group met on Wednesday and concluded it was still possible to avert Mr. Trump’s nomination."
  • "Trump opponents convened a series of war councils last week. . ."
  • "To justify rejecting Mr. Trump in Cleveland, Republicans say they will have to convince both delegates and the public that it was not the party’s obligation to hand him a nomination he did not secure on his own.
  • 'The burden is on Trump, not the party, if he fails to clinch the nomination,'  said David Winston, a Republican pollster who advises the House leadership. 'He has presented himself as the ultimate dealmaker, and it’s on him to close this one.'” "Mitt Romney, the party’s nominee in 2012, attempted to bridge that divide on Friday by revealing that he would support Mr. Cruz in Utah. . ."
  •  "About two dozen conservative leaders met Thursday at a private club in Washington, where some pushed for the group to come out for Mr. Cruz to rebut the perception that the stop-Trump campaign was an establishment plot. 'If we leave here supporting Cruz, then we’re anti-establishment,' said one participant, who could be heard by a reporter outside."
  • ". . . Erick Erickson, an influential conservative commentator, who convened the meeting."
I understand the NY Times writer interviewed people who didn't want to be named, but he's left it pretty vague.  Who are these 'conservative leaders' and who in the Republican party would acknowledge them as leaders?

Erick Erickson, by the way, according to Wikipedia, is a 40 year old blogger, newscaster who was born in Louisiana, went to school in Dubai from age 5 to 15 while his father worked for Conoco-Philips.  This is who convenes two dozen conservative leaders?  Just a few years ago, blogger was a dirty word.

This opposition to Trump makes more sense to me than the opposition to Garland.  In fact it's gratifying to know that top level conservatives are appalled by Trump's racism and inciting violence.  Because it marks progress. Racism and violence never seemed to bother them in the past.  They embraced the Southern Strategy and have fought against voting rights for people of color and supported law and order legislation that disproportionately imprisoned blacks, they're against immigration reform, they love the NRA and talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh.  So to oppose violent racists is progress.

I can't help thinking it's really more about Trump's unpredictability and the fear of losing the power they have in Washington.   And all the things they've been able to do all these years without any serious accountability to the public.

But I don't have access to their texts or phone calls, so I really don't know specifics.  But with stories like these about 'leading conservatives' plotting to keep Trump from getting the nomination, I'm sure they're going to win the hearts and minds of their Tea Party core.


  1. You may know things have ‘hotted up’ in Britain -- where a Conservative government is having to back-track on their own Chancellor’s budget that would have cut independent living support to people with disabilities. Incredible in US terms, this is a conservative government agreeing to rewrite its annual budget because of a revolt of its even more conservative members concerned with 'dividing society' – benefitting those well-off by hurting the working poor.

    It's so different here.

    But back to the USA. I do think I got both a shock and insight from one of my tea party relation’s post the other day. It was a blathering defence of Trump, proving he now has enemies from BOTH the Democratic and Republican party’s – emphasis very much added - ESTABLISHMENT.

    Establishment? I started searching this. I'm finding it in too many dark places. And what this seemingly appears to be is nothing less than a forming wedge of activists now willing to 'throw the baby with the bath water'. They want nothing less than a reworking of American democracy, previously through the likes of Republicans, but they are beyond that.

    Does the US have a Republican analogue of the 1960s and its '68 Democratic Convention that could replay that generation's 'anti-establishment' actions from the left, now right?

    Just a thought, but the Tea Party movement suddenly clearer, more ominous. It's goal may very well have always been revolution, we just didn't believe them.

    1. Funny, reading my remarks, I think I sound and think like someone who has probably been out the country for 10 years...

      and I nearly have, come this October!

      I guess everyone there already knows this stuff but I find it way beyond interesting: It helps make sense of the Tea Party, why they were willing to bring down the American budget process and all that.

      They and their kin truly are radicals. I will hand them that, at the very least, remembering that time when the Left wanted a total reformation, too.

      The catholicism of American creed wasn't good enough for some then; it isn't for some, now.

  2. And meanwhile, in Brussels. Life is simply complex.

  3. Jacob, I heard stories from my parents, who experienced it first hand, about the rise of Hitler, starting as the crazy outsider who was dismissed as a passing fancy by the ‘rational’ people. My whole understanding of the US has been hedged with the knowledge that the most scientifically and culturally advanced country in Europe, in a period of economic depression and nationalistic humiliation, voted for a maniac. So I've always known that the US could go that way too. We have some structural barriers to that, and I don't expect Trump to be the next president. But I don't totally rule it out either.
    And I just finished my Brussels post before reading your comments.

  4. Yes, what you write about matters in London. Brussels is a city divided within a divided country – and that’s natives I know speaking of ancient practice there. I took a university EU government course in which we studied and visited various instruments of power in Brussels. I stayed with some Quakers who worked in diplomacy. Our hosts, multicultural binationals with idiomatic fluency in five languages, were excellent guides to the work-a-day there.

    Much of what was the nationalism (and I do use 'ism' with intention) of European-states is the consequent undoing within the ‘melting pot’ in America. My own family went through it, losing both Swedish and German languages when they had resisted it.

    Belgium is not the USA in that way, at all. Like so many societies, they settled on class and cleaving to ancient language rivalry as expedients to governance, and built a nation upon it. For all the sins known in the founding of the United States, modern European nations must admit integration of migrants simply wasn’t a goal. As one group had their place to live; another group had theirs. Does this square with the experience of racial segregation you write of?

    Britain had an entire region defined and maintained by religious identification (and please, not always belief) exemplified by what is knows today as Northern Ireland – historical divisions legally set between Catholic and Protestant as strong and understood as racism in the United States (which is why largely Brits see racism as a possible construct not only based on colour as you do in the states). Britain today has areas established by custom of (im)migrants the world over – of neighbourhoods known by language and ethnicity like NYC or many other larger, collector-cities in the modern world.

    I think we’re doing a better job of integration than Belgium, than Sweden or Denmark, Germany. I sense this is so because of our language and connection to the USA. We’ve learned a thing or two from our experience with our former colonies. It took hits upon the head, but insights were gained. Belgium lacks this benefit and it largely refuses to gain it.

    1. And yes, Steve, leaving evidence of segregation without discussing the integration efforts in Britain was my intention. It is going on, with some success, but not so much. That's another post!


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