Trump, Gorsuch, & The Supreme Court: Will Progressives Act in Good Faith?


Democrats should hold confirmation hearings and approve President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, in a respectful, timely way. In other words, they ought to act in the way Republicans should have acted with President Obama’s pick, Merrick Garland. How Liberals and Progressives respond to this nomination will show whether their ongoing protests and anger are truly principled or are just aimless expressions of emotion.

Most every action Trump has taken since becoming President has been abnormal, irresponsible, immoral, incompetent, or counter-productive. He is, in my opinion entirely unfit for the office of President, and has not the moral, intellectual, nor executive substance that this office requires. Yet I am in the electoral minority. Donald J. Trump is the President now, and even if he does not treat the Presidency with the respect and dignity it deserves, the rest of us should.

All of the Opinion pieces I’ve seen so far that have argued for Democratic obstruction of the Gorsuch nomination, do so on two primary grounds: the Republican travesty of blocking Obama’s pick for the past year, and the Conservatism of Gorsuch. Both of these reasons come up short.
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The Moderate We Need: Why I’m voting for Bernie Sanders in PA


At this point it is a cliché to point out the brokenness of the American political system. In the past eight years, we have seen the least productive Congressional sessions in our country’s history, and have watched as even the most routine political acts are turned into controversial sideshows. What we need is not ideology, dogmatism, or a “political revolution”. We need a functioning, effective democracy.

And it is for that reason that this Tuesday, April 26th, I will be voting for Senator Bernie Sanders in the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary.

Let me explain.

Though I cannot in good conscience throw my lot in with today’s Republican party, I consider myself a conservative in my political philosophy. I am a registered Democrat (rather than an Independent) only because in a city as blue as Philadelphia where our Democratic primaries are the decisive ones, I’d have no say in my city’s politics if I weren’t.

Nevertheless, I do not agree with the idealistic and utopian vision that much progressive politics entails. I loathe the cynical identity politics of the Democratic party. I think the bigger the federal government is, the more frayed our communal bonds become. Further, politics must also have a moral foundation. Now, both Democrats and Republicans would agree with that, but there is a difference between ideology and morality.
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American Lent in the Season of Trump

One of the smartest and funniest women at my church, Alyssa, has this great blog you should all follow. In it, her observations on life, cities, and spirituality are whip smart and hilarious. Several weeks ago, she put up a post asking “Is Trump America’s Lent?” She writes:

For the purposes of this argument, let’s call Lent an annual wake-up call, a reminder that we aren’t as good as we think we are….Trump’s success so far is a wake-up call in itself, like a large-scale Lent: maybe we aren’t as good as we think we are. Apparently, as a country we’re actually more racist and fearful than we thought we were just a few months ago, when people laughed at the thought of him actually standing a chance. The land of the free might just be okay with building that wall. The home of the brave is actually pretty scared of Muslims.

This is incredibly insightful, and I think it turns our national “Trump-versation” to a helpful place in the Lent season. Rather than trying to understand “the Trump voter” on a micro-individual level–a level full of misunderstanding, prejudice, and judgmentalism on all sides–we might turn our gaze inward to our nation as a whole. Looking at the bigger movements and structures of our society, we can ask the hard questions that you can’t really ask when staring another individual in the face.

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I thought liberals were all for diplomacy

People have been right to criticize the Republicans and their political posturing and obstructionism. Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, and others were right to openly mock the way Republicans have seemingly overnight changed their views on historic planks of their platform just because Obama was putting forward those ideas. Obama was correct to plead with them with calm, reasoned explanations on how they were politically shooting themselves in the foot in the long term and freezing the work that needed to get done in this country. It was right to speak of Republican Senators that had absurd and asinine holds on Obama’s nominations as holding the government “hostage”. In short, it has been right to describe Republicans as “obstructionist”, and not for principle, but for politics. I personally resonate more with historic “conservative” visions of the government, but I have been disgusted by the abhorrent politicking that Republicans have been doing merely in the name of re-election. As Obama put it, far more concerned with their own job security than ours.

We have been right to cry out, editorialize, mock, rally against, be shocked by, and call for the end of these Republican political antics that have no basis in reason, discourse, or benefit to the American people or process.

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NPR, News, & the Politics of Change

npr search

I encountered one of the most fascinating things the other day. In the picture above (click for a larger version), you will see a search I recently did on Twitter for “npr”. I was trying to find their various Twitter accounts so I could follow, get news updates, and the like. I was shocked to see that with 1,448,766 followers, NPR’s Politics account is by far the most popular. NPR News is a distant second with only 123,086 followers.

Why is that?

This has been giving more pause than it should. Why are there more than ten times as many people wanting to follow NPR Politics than NPR anything else? Of course, there are many factors I don’t know that could contribute to these results. The Politics account could be the oldest account, and the News one being a relatively new one. They all could have been started around the time of the election. The Politics account could have been advertised more. I don’t know, but still: would those variables fully account for the inequality?

Are Americans really that much more interested in Political news as opposed to general News? Actually, maybe. I know that prior to this election, I only got obsessed with politics for the five or so months leading up to voting night, and then dropped it like a bad habit the next morning. But not this time. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I have kept up with my political engagement – perhaps increased it, in fact. My personal addiction to NPR, The Economist, the Politics section of the New York Times and Slate magazine, various editorials and opinion columns, and all things Social Justice-y has only increased since November.

Could this be a reflection of the amount of hope and anticipation a completely new guard promised to bring? That Americans freely ascribed to? That all of us knew was needed? Perhaps. Personally, I think that the academy is moving past postmodernity into what I’m currently calling “neo-pragmatism” (some good friends would rather call it “critical realism”, and they have some good points). But either way, I feel like modernity preached to us the mind, postmodernity the heart, and now “neo-pragmatism” the legs. In short, I think people are seeking a “whatever works” approach. The great fulfillment promised by the previous two major philosophical epochs never happened, so now people are willing to do whatever it takes – throw off any convention, question so many presuppositions, and change ideologies – in the hopes that something might actually effect change and lasting growth in our lives.

Perhaps this simple Twitter search is a reflection of this? Maybe there really is a much greater interest in the mechanisms of change in the world because people know we need it, they want it, and want to know how their leaders are trying to help them accomplish it. Need I mention more than Obama’s campaign-winning slogan? It wasn’t Ideology you can believe in or even Truth you can believe in. It was Change. And politics is much more likely to accomplish change than news (for better or worse).

I think we’re right in looking for change. I think we’re right in looking for that which will actually be readily applicable in our everyday lives. I think we’re right in looking for what works.

I just fear we’re looking in the wrong place.