Ideological Purity is an Indulgence – Part 2

March 19, 2016

Warren Burger (Earl Warren). Harry Blackmun (Abe Fortas). Lewis Powell (Hugo Black). William Rehnquist (John Harlan; Warren Burger). John Paul Stevens (William O. Douglas). Sandra Day O’Connor (Potter Stewart). Antonin Scalia (William Rehnquist). Anthony Kennedy (Lewis Powell). David Souter (William Brennan). Clarence Thomas (Thurgood Marshall). John Roberts (William Rehnquist). Samuel Alito (Sandra Day O’Connor). These are the Nixon/Ford, Reagan, and Bushes, père et fils, justices, along with those whom they replaced.

Justice John Paul Stevens got almost everything right during his 30+ years at the Court. Others—Justices Harry Blackmun and Sandra Day O’Connor—are responsible for much that is good. Justice Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts have also had their important and worthy moments. Nonetheless, this group of Republican appointees—and especially the four who remain on the bench and the late Justice Antonin Scalia—have set this country back on abortion, campaign finance, guns, religion in the public sphere, voting, and many other issues. And with President Donald Trump or Ted Cruz appointing 2 – 4 justices, it’ll be Katy Bar the Door! So yes, Ralph Nader, it really does matter who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Let’s talk about wars. The Democrats own Vietnam, at least until the country elected Richard Nixon in 1968, him with his secret plan to end the war. (More than a third of the 58,220 Americans who died in Vietnam died after Nixon was elected.) But Democrats have demonstrated a capacity to learn from mistakes. Sadly, elected Rs have not. Iraq was an unnecessary war, based on false premises. Afghanistan may have been a place where our soldiers belonged, but not for damn near forever. And, still, we have Republican presidential candidates and senators advocating for more wars. Wrong again, Ralph!

Then there’s the economy. Presidents Reagan and Bush the Younger drove it into the ditch with their voodoo economics. (Yes, there was growth during the Reagan Administration, but the national debt tripled during the same period; even I can get rich with borrowed money.) Presidents Clinton and Obama raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans—with nary a vote in favor from a Republican—and those 15 years have seen extraordinary job growth, and smaller increases in the national debt as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product.

Now, Mr. Trump and Senator Cruz advocate for trillions in additional tax cuts. Mr. Trump has brought back Ronald Reagan’s waste, fraud, and abuse. (You know, if it’s still an issue after 25 years, maybe there really isn’t that much, or it’s just not going to be excised.) Their plans are really dangerous!

Jordan Weissman’s piece for The Atlantic in December 2013, Are Democrats Really Better at Running the Economy than Republicans?, reports on a study by Alan Blinder and Mark Watson, which demonstrates statistically significant, better economic growth when a Democrat is in the White House. They don’t attribute the success to particular policies—luck may be the best explanation—but if Democrats are luckier, I’m for that! And you should be too, Ralph!

Finally, in prior elections the Republicans put forward candidates with at least some evident skills and interest in the affairs of the day. Now? Not so much, not to put too fine a point on it. David Brooks noted the other day that “[Trump] insults the office Abraham Lincoln once occupied by running for it with less preparation than most of us would undertake to buy a sofa.” Clever line, for sure, but Mr. Trump seems to thrive on the notion that simple explains everything, and that if something is not simple, it’s not worthy of attention.

And then there is Senator Cruz. In four years in the Senate this man has made himself a big deal because, get this, he doesn’t get along with anyone. Not fricking anyone! This qualifies him for the presidency?

So I’m sorry about the fact that one or the other of the two candidates for the Democratic Party nomination do not suit every D. And, for sure, neither one of them is not without plenty of political warts. And, yes, the Republic did survive under Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and George W. Bush. But do you really think not getting the candidate you want supports not voting against Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. Really?

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