An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Sunday, July 1, 2018
Busy day yesterday for the anti-Trump left in Wichita. I made it to the Ice Cream Social at the Wichita Peace Center, along with about forty other people, including two candidates -- James Thompson, running for Congress, somehow escaped my attention, but I couldn't miss Lacey Cruse, running for the Sedgwick County Commission, as she was the featured entertainment. Coming at the end of a long day wrapping up my June Streamnotes, I wasn't in the mood for a folkie singalong, so repaired to a quieter nook of the Peace House. However, she mentioned two demonstrations that day: one on inequality, the other on refugee rights. My wife went to the latter, and guessed about 300 people showed up. The former seemed to be the work of DSA. About a half-dozen people in DSA tee-shirts showed up for ice cream -- only one previously known to me.
I mention this because I've been in a deep, disgusted funk all week, and expected to just go through the motions in this post today. So while my commitment and even interest are flagging, note at least that there are still others who are getting more engaged -- especially much younger ones. That is as it should be. While there are terrible things that the current regime can do to what's left of my life, it's young people today who face the real horrors of America's current political nihilism, and it's their futures that hang in the balance. I've never been comfortable thinking in generational terms, but there are massive differences from the world I grew up in to the one young people inhabit today. We saw that there were inequities that needed work and issues that needed new attention, but we still believed that America's political legacy pointed toward a fairer and more equitable world. We made some real progress on many fronts, but left the door open which allowed moneyed interests and right-wing ideologues to creep back into control.
That, in turn, led to the impoverished, disempowered, manipulated, and embittered world young people today inhabit. That world took a turn for the worse in November 2016 when Trump won the presidency and both houses of Congress. I was literally sickened by the thought. If my capacity to be shocked has since waned, it's not because Republicans have failed to deliver on their threats. It's just because what's come to pass already seemed so inevitable 20 months ago. One such prospect was that right-wing activists would strengthen their grip on the Supreme Court and increasingly use that power to advance their agenda. This week that threat became suddenly real for a lot of people, thanks first to a series of rulings where Kennedy sided with the right, then with Kennedy's retirement, allowing Trump to install yet another right-wing movement judge.
But actually that movement on the court has been growing slowly, at least since Nixon nominated Rehnquist, whose opposition to civil rights was somehow deemed less threatening without a Southern drawl. (Nixon had previously had two nominees rejected, precisely for that reason.) It hasn't gone as smoothly as conservatives wanted, but their game plan has been relentless, and focused on the branch of government that is slowest moving and least responsive to popular political opinion. Actually, until Roosevelt prevailed by outlasting the judges, the Supreme Court had always been a bastion of elite privilege. We are very fortunate to have lived during the one period in American history when the Court regularly stood up for the civil rights of individuals and minorities. Thanks to the 2016 election, the Supreme Court will be a millstone on any recovery of democracy we manage to achieve in the 2018, 2020, etc. elections -- probably for decades to come.
I don't have a citation, but I have a pretty clear memory of Lindsey Graham, back when he was in the House before he became a Senator in 2003, explaining that Republicans have to use whatever power they have to lock in long-term, hard-to-repeal changes whenever and wherever they can, precisely because they realize that they can't expect to hold power indefinitely (and possibly because they fear demographic trends might undermine their standing). The courts, with their lifetime terms, are merely the most obvious example. Indeed, for decades now they've come up with novel approaches to frustrate democracy, including feeding a steady erosion in the confidence people have that they can change lives for the better through political action.
This week has been a banner week for their cynical manipulations. The lesson Democrats should learn is that they need to defeat the Republicans so big that such schemes are overwhelmed.
Some scattered links this week: