A Return to Civility, Part II

In our last podcast, I spoke about the history of recent Supreme Court confirmation proceedings. But why? With so much animosity in the news, why just point out the problems in the nomination, confirmation, and SCOTUS decision-making processes?

To think, there are so many other issues facing our Federal government. Debt-ceiling gamesmanship, deficit-spending, questionable tax policy, exploding entitlement budgets, delusionally bloated Pentagon-spending, ACA, insurance premium-gouging, prescription price-gouging, questions about social media censorship and regulation, environmental regulation and climate change, election interference from overseas, immigration policy,  NAFTA, NATO, ICC, WTO, TransPacific Partnership, human rights… and on, and on…

So why obsess about the deterioration of the Supreme Court confirmation process? Well, because its symptomatic of what I see as the reductionist, myopic, and selfishness that has, while it has always been there, has now completely overtaken the American corporate and political landscape. Identity politics has replaced political debate; Political disagreement is now seen as evidence of a moral or patriotic flaw in those with which we disagree. The neo-tribalistic perceptions of political ideology have become the norm, and compromise is a now bad word. There are fewer and fewer true leaders left in elected government. Common purpose and Noblesse oblige have been subsumed by personal and partisan Machiavellianism. Relativism is now the dominant moral philosophy of Congress and the White House.

But, maybe that’s just me. It seems, to me, that the lack of political courage domestically and internationally has brought us closer to the edge – the point of no return in terms of climate change, the edge of losing the stability of international NGO regimes that were developed in the ashes of the Second World War, instead of recognizing our collective human destiny, the national and international actors seem to desire a return to the competition for international resources and hegemony that brought us colonization, jingoism, racism, two world wars, and near use of nuclear weapons during the Cold War.

To use psychological terminology, both internationally and domestically, we are regressing, not maturing. We’re playing Hungry Hungry Hippo and zero-sum games, as opposed to incorporating game theory and win-win into our mindsets and guiding principles. We need a long game, not a putting game; as the Iroquois often said in deliberations, we need to think about the Seventh Generation, not our personal checkbooks and neotribalistic aspirations.

Because, what the world needs, if American leadership. Yes, for decades, there has been a robust debate between those who support unilateral American leadership and those who believe in multilateral world leadership with a strong, active, and an engaged American presence in the world stage. What the world has now, is an international power vacuum.

Today, as we speak, there is a genocide against the Rohingya in Burma… and the Burmese say, what happened to the Native Americans, don’t you still keep them on reservations even today?

Saudi and other US allies bomb Yemenese civilians with US-made bombs, and whisper that it’s their Vietnam, their Nicaragua after all, right?

Russia commits assassinations and attempted assassinations of dissidents in the UK, and says, hey, the US did it too in 1953 Iran, 1954 Guatemala, 1963 South Vietnam, and 1973 Chile.

Russia annexes Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, and intimidates its neighbors… and sends social media bots to exacerbate divisions between Americans; all the while, the President of the United States says he respects Putin and believes the Head of State of a foreign power, over his own government’s non-partisan intelligence community.

Of course, it is not just Putin that Mr. Trump admires, he has also expressed his admiration for Duarte of the Philippines, Kim of North Korea, and Xi of China.

Yes, China, where the decades-long Hannification of Tibet is essentially complete, during which the US let China into the WTO and facilitated the transfer of technology through not just corporate espionage but nation-state espionage against US corporations… then the US became dependent on borrowing money from the very people who have stolen US technology, and even imprisoned the Panchen Lama. Would the US react so banally if the Vatican Secretary of State were kidnapped, or the heir to the Chief Rabbi of Israel?

Which brings us to this week. This week news broke that there are nearly a million Uighurs interred in concentration camps in the People’s Republic of China. Once again, the US hems and haws. Officials toss the word ‘sanctions’ out again like a panacea, whereas it is more like a placebo.

After all, China has weathered the steel sanctions well enough, while American soybean farmers suffer and Harley-Davidson has announced it is moving some production to Europe. Not overseas where its cheaper as the jingoistic narrative goes, but to the land of socialism, free university, and free healthcare… Europe.

So, how does the US tell China to stop the internment of Uighurs. The US still imprisons foreigners in GITMO without Due Process and separates asylum-seeking families at the US border. And just this week, as news of the Uigher re-education camps broke, leader of the United States has denied the death of thousands of Puerto Ricans…

And our response, as Americans and human beings, our response has been to double-down into neotribalism and identity politics. The problems facing the world are not the fault of one man, but it has been exasperated by him.

Trumpism needs to be rejected and filed away in history with fascism, Stalinism, McCarthyism, South American Caudillos, and rulers from across the globe including the Middle East and Africa who use cult-of-personality strongman tactics. I hear conservative voices cry out against the increasingly violent Left, the so-called AntiFa; but many of the same voices have been silent about the violent Right… from the the continuous presence of the KKK in America, the institutional racism of Southern law enforcement that attacked Civil Rights protesters, right up to the militia movement, the Sovereign Citizen movement, Ammon and Randy Bundy, etc.

Violent rhetoric and political violence from all sides of the political spectrum must be stopped. Instead of complaining about political violence and violence rhetoric from our ideological opposites, we all need to remove the log from our own eyes and ideologies before pointing out the splinter in others’ eyes and ideologies.

Democratic politicians who play the same games of manipulative populism and fearmongering need to be voted out; we used to talk about who we are, not who we’re not. We used to promote vision, not vitriol. Yes, its hard to be the minority party, but it doesn’t mean you have to lower your standards to the lowest forms of politics. It is also hard to be the party in power, to govern not gripe. The traditional Republicans need to regain their moral standards. Since 2010, traditional Republicans have thought they could use the Tea Party movement, only to become controlled by them… don’t believe me? Just as Speaker John Boehner. Ask Jeb Bush. The Republican leaders who have tolerated Trump in exchange for tax cuts and Supreme Court seats need to go. We need new leadership in both parties. We need national unity, not national dysfunction. The New Jerusalem is shrinking from its promise as the beacon on the hill for the world to look up to, no, America has become dystopian, not Utopian.

It’s possible. Rhode Island, long one of the most nepotistic judiciaries, implemented reforms that have ushered in candidates of qualification, not political affiliation. A return to a supermajority for Supreme Court nominations. An end to the gerrymandered districting in the House of Representatives. Bi-partisan co-sponsorship for legislation. Guaranteed up/down votes on bills offered by the minority party. Depoliticalization of the debt ceiling. Ending dark money. Rebuilding partnership with historic allies, and maybe taking a break from questionable new allies. A commitment by politicians, especially presidents, that recognizes treaties are -according to Article VI of the US Constitution- the supreme law of the land and cannot be withdrawn from, but need to be renegotiated or unratified legislatively at the 2/3 threshold in the Constitution.

We can meaningfully address the myriad of issues facing our Federal government. Debt-ceiling gamesmanship, deficit-spending, questionable tax policy, exploding entitlement budgets, delusionally bloated Pentagon-spending, ACA, insurance premium-gouging, prescription price-gouging, questions about social media censorship and regulation, environmental regulation and climate change, election interference from overseas, immigration policy,  NAFTA, NATO, ICC, WTO, TransPacific Partnership, human rights… and on, and on… We can do it if we collaborate and compromise with a win-win mentality, not the reductionist neotribal mindset that has become the norm in recent years.

It’s possible. And, even if it wasn’t, are we willing to live in the tit-for-tat Banana Republic as we’ve become, or do we want the new America to be like the old America: imperfect, but searching to be a more perfect union.

PHOTO CREDIT (Public Domain):  https://www.archives.gov/exhibit_hall/american_originals_iv/images/jfk_inaugural_address/inauguration.html
Photographer/Painter: Record Group 111, Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer (111-SC-578830)

Podcast: Who Cares About NYT Op-Ed?

Who Wrote the Anonymous Op-Ed?

(Photo: Daniel Schwen)

Who’s the anonymous Op-Ed writer? Like FBI Agent Jack Baer looking for Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects (1995), the first question is, does the anonymous writer exist? If only President Trump had Jack Bauer to figure it all out in 24 hours, instead of Jack Baer looking in all the wrong places with all the usual suspects.

Does the Op-Ed writer exist? Yes, more than likely the writer exists. The New York Times is not going to publish a fake Opinion Editorial. But there are other possibilities as well. First, is the author a singular writer, or an amalgamation of authors? People in the Executive Branch aren’t exactly standing up next to Kirk Douglas shouting, “I am Spartacus!” “No, I am Spartacus!” (By the way, Senator Orrin Hatch’s tweet yesterday was perhaps the funniest tweet by any politician in the social media era, just sayin’.) No, instead, we’re meant to believe that there an Illuminati-like club inside the Trump Administration whose members banally walk the halls of the White House with facades of loyalty while hiding their true intentions like armies of Londoners wearing Guy Fawkes masks in V is for Vendetta (2005).

So, did one person write the Op-Ed, or was one person chosen to write for the group, or did the group of White House officials who are concerned write the Op-Ed together? After all, if there are “many of the senior officials in his [Trump’s] own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” then my question is, do these senior officials met together? Do these senior officials coordinate with each other? Because, if there is a ‘Resistance’ in the White House working together, then why would a singular member write an Op-Ed to the New York Times?

Which brings me to the next question, why was the Op-Ed written? What was the point of the Op-Ed? It seems to me that the author could idyllically-speaking be genuinely seeking to force a conversation about the 25th Amendment. Ulteriorly-speaking, however, the author or authors may be simply trying to inoculate themselves from a future fallout. Because, the writer’s career in this Administration is over, and probably any career in public office. When the identity is ultimately revealed, the best financial hope for the writer is a book deal, compensation for TV appearances, and the long-term goal of resurrecting one’s reputation in 20 years like Watergate’s John Dean. In international relations, there is something called Rational Actor Theory, in which we assume that people make decisions rationally in their own best interests and/or the best interests of their country. Presumably, then, the author wrote the Op-Ed for a rational reason, whether we agree with the decision to write or not.

So, why now? First of all, why September 5, 2018? Is it a coincidence that the Op-Ed was published the day after parts of Bob Woodward’s new book Fear was released? The only person that I can think of who is that calculating in the release of information is Bob Mueller. And, for the record, I don’t think Mueller is the writer. I do think it’s a fascinating coincidence. Because the Woodward book was released by CNN, whereas the Op-Ed was published by the New York Times. It is also worth pointing out that, if the Times published on September 5th, the Op-Ed was written several days earlier, before the Woodward scoop by CNN.

To discuss the why now? returns us to the question of why? again as well. I’ve already discussed the personal interests of the author(s), but are their other considerations? Strategically-speaking, who benefits from the publication of the Opinion-Editorial? At face value, the biggest winners from the publication of the Op-Ed are the New York Times, as well as the partisan media from both sides of the political spectrum, Democratic candidates for Congress in 2018, and Trump himself. Yes, Trump benefits from the Op-Ed. The Op-Ed reinforces partisanship of both those who loathe, as well as those who love, President Donald J. Trump.

As far as I can tell, the losers in this situation are the White House senior officials, whether the staffers are the author of the Op-Ed or not. Because, if the author(s) are real, there must be a rational impetus to write the Op-Ed now, because it’s the “senior officials in his [Trump’s] own administration [who] are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” who now have a harder job.

While Dick Armitage et al. may have outed Valarie Plame to deflect criticism of the Bush Administration, in this situation the covert operatives have outed himself, herself, or themselves. Because of the publication of the Op-Ed, senior officials may now be required to take polygraphs, sign affidavits, live under a cloud of suspicion, work in a more chaotic work environment, all the while helping to run the government of the United States and clandestinely “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his [Trump’s] agenda and his worst inclinations.” Why would someone(s) risk exposure?

And, after all, what does the word senior mean anyway? There is always the possibility that the author of the Op-Ed has an overly self-indulgent sense of his/her own importance. But, if it was not a recognizable senior official, why would the New York Times not only go to lengths to hide the identity, I’m more interested in how the New York Times would even know the person in the first place? Imagine how many letters-to-the-editor and opinion editorials each and every day; How and why did this Op-Ed get noticed? Because the author is recognizable and/or a verifiably senior official. And that official’s (or officials’) own job(s) just got harder. Inevitably, the senior official(s) who wrote the supposedly anonymous Op-Ed will be identified. The senior official will be fired. Perhaps the author cares not about being fired; the writer is so angry or so concerned, that rational thought has exited the building and the senior official (Kevin Hassett or Kirstjen Nielsen) will ride into martyrdom like the Charge of the Light Brigade.  But, rationally-speaking and according to Rational Actor Theory, the senior official would only take that risk if the official was already leaving (Don McGahn and Jeff Sessions), an official with enormous stature who has already retired once (Dan Coats), or one of the only two senior officials in the White House who cannot be fired: President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Michael Richard Pence.

Yes, Trump benefits from the publication of the Times’ Op-Ed, but I’m not sure Trump has the strategic calculation skills to plant an anonymous Op-Ed like a Straw Soldier (the Times certainly would not publish an anonymous Op-Ed that the editorial staff knew to be President Trump). And then there is Mike Pence, who increasingly reminds me of the fictitious Vice President Ted Matthews in the (1996) film My Fellow Americans. The only senior official in the administration who cannot be fired and who also has a penchant for using the word lodestar. Which raises the question, why would an anonymous writer use a word that could so easily be tied back to the senior official? The anonymous author is also a little too happy to use the word resistance for me to believe Sessions is the Op-Ed writer, though he certainly has become a significant roadblock to Trump’s impulsiveness.

I suspect that a lawyer who has no interest in running for political office or being in the public spotlight, who already met with Bob Mueller’s team for 30 hours, and who has already announced his departure from the White House might be well considered one of the usual suspects. After all, it is already well-known that McGahn blurred the truth to prevent Trump from firing Mueller in December 2017. But why would McGahn write an anonymous opinion editorial to the New York Times now, at this juncture in time? Quit now and write it with a byline or wait until the announced departure in December 2018 to write an opinion editorial.

I can, however, envision a scenario in which the Director of National Intelligence is cognizant enough to intentionally use lodestar as a red herring, and use the word resistance too without too much discomfort. There is little question that the former U.S. Senator, who served with John McCain, would always choose country over party and, frankly, maybe be inspired to write an anonymous Op-Ed to the New York Times as he watched two memorial services and watch non-stop praise for McCain’s patriotic independence. I suspect Dan Coats would be aware of “many of the senior officials in his [Trump’s] own administration [who] are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” whether those officials are cooperating with each other or operating as patriotic lone wolves. Dan Coats, former Representative of IN-4 and former U.S. Senator from Indiana, also knows both Vice President Dan Quayle of Indiana and Vice President Mike Pence of Indiana quite well. He knows Mike Pence, the only senior official who cannot be fired and is the beneficiary of any impeachment proceedings or invocation of the 25th Amendment.

John McCain, Martyr

Martyr. Yes, that’s what I said. John McCain was a martyr. Often defined as “a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs,” John McCain was a martyr. McCain died for America, representing nearly all Americans, and inviting us all to be Americans. As Jake Tapper said today, “Washington needs McCain more than ever.” Indeed, McCain (August 29, 1936 – August 25, 2018) is what America needs at this point in time.

In death, we are often absolved of our sins. Was John McCain perfect, no. Certainly not. And neither am I. McCain’s own epitaph about himself was: “He served his country. And not always right, made a lot of mistakes, made a lot of errors. But served his country. And I hope, could add, honorably.”

McCain, well-known as a prisoner-of-war during the Vietnam Conflict, dated while married to another woman. Later, McCain became embroiled in the Keating Five scandal. I mention this not as a mark against his integrity, but as an acknowledgment of his humanity. What good is a perfect man in this world of imperfection? The world needs real role models, not characters of fantastical storyland.

McCain resurrected himself as “The Maverick” of the Straight Talk Express in the 2000 Election. Losing to George W. Bush in the Republican primary for President of the United States, McCain returned to the U.S. Senate as an elder statesman of the party, and of the Senate. In 2008, the loyal party member tried again for the presidency.

McCain was magnanimous. He was the definition of magnanimous. Yes, as Carla Herreria pointed out, the campaign offered mixed signals and, ultimately, that is the responsibility of the top-of-the-ticket. But, in light of the partisan maelstrom since 1988, McCain’s campaign stands out as different. On October 10, 2008, McCain defended, not Barrack Obama, but America. Herreria correctly points out McCain could have done more, but he did more than any other candidate did. We can all do more. Always.

My own John McCain story is that he almost knocked me over in a narrow hallway beneath the capital. It was 1994, and I was an intern for Jack Reed in the House of Representatives. I was taking a shortcut by going down into the deep basements with no tourists to then get to the other side of the capital and up the staircase to the Senate. There was a filing cabinet in the hallway as maintenance was cleaning out one of the small offices. Senator McCain and I were the same distance from the gap and walking about at the same pace. Neither one of us slowed down so we hit the gap at the same time and then banged shoulders without saying a word to each other.

I’m pretty sure that I could have done more. I’m pretty sure I could have stepped out of the way of a Vietnam war veteran, former Prisoner-of-War, and Member of Congress.

There is a reason that U.S. Senator John Sidney McCain (R-AZ) has asked U.S. President George W. Bush and U.S. President Barrack H. Obama to eulogize him. McCain gracefully lost elections to both men, yet served loyally despite his personal defeat. McCain put country over politics.

When Max Boot, Jake Tapper, and others across the political spectrum too eulogize McCain, let us not fool ourselves into thinking that McCain is remembered in the vacuum of history. No, we all know that McCain is being remembered within the context of Donald J. Trump. Lloyd Benson may have been speaking to Dan Quayle, but the words are just as applicable to President Trump: “I knew John McCain. John McCain was my friend. Mr. President, you’re no John McCain.”

Few of us will ever be a John McCain.

As diehard supporters of Donald Trump have echoed about McCain, McCain was just a P.O.W.; Trump likes “people who weren’t captured” (July 18, 2015). On Obamacare, McCain will always be remembered, derisively or heroically, as the vote that saved the Affordable Care Act. The Maverick had struck again.

But he wasn’t finished. In his autobiography, McCain lamented choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate. McCain was always better than the low-brow, crowd-pleasing photogenic Governor of Alaska. The Maverick had struck again.

And, none of that matters.

What matters is that Cindy McCain has lost a husband. Douglas McCain, Andrew McCain, Sidney McCain, Meghan McCain, John Sidney McCain IV, James McCain, and Bridget McCain have lost a father. That’s what matters. Our country lost a leader, a rare independent voice these days, but who are we to steal a parent from his children.

McCain matters. He will be missed as Max Boot, and so many others have mentioned. But when we remember McCain, I think it is more a rejection of Trumpism, than an embracement of the senior U.S. Senator from Arizona.

Country first.

Rest in Peace, Senator McCain.

~~~

(Photo Credit: https://www.cheatsheet.com/culture/iconic-photos-of-john-mccain-through-the-years.html/)

Other Related Links:

 

Pelosi Should Ride off into the Sunset

In martial arts, there is a philosophy of using your opponents’ strength against them. Remember candidate Jon Ossoff (GA-6), candidate now-Congressman Conor Lamb (PA-18) and candidate Danny O’Connor (OH-12) for example. Think of all the PAC money and campaign funds that have been spent this year tying Democratic candidates to Nancy Pelosi (CA-12). In politics, pollsters and pundits talk about unfavorable numbers. I think its probably safe to say that the three politicians with the highest unfavorable are, in alphabetical order, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Donald Trump. Try as Trump may, Hillary Clinton is not on the ballot in the 2018 midterm elections. On November 6, 2018, however, it is easy to make the argument that every vote cast for Congress is a proxy vote for either Pelosi or Trump.

Here are two lists: The first list is, in alphabetical order, Kobe Bryant, Brett Favre, George Foreman, Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry Rice, and Tiger Woods. All five are incredible athletes. The second list, also successful athletes, is Tiki Barber, Jim Brown, Rocky Marciano, Barry Sanders, Robert Smith, and Annika Sorenstam. Given a choice, which list would you want to be on? What do the people on each list have in common? The first list includes athletes that are considered by many to have played too long. Conversely, the second list of athletes are often said to have retired too early in their career.

So, which is Nancy Pelosi? Nancy Patricia D’Alesandro Pelosi (born March 26, 1940) has represented California’s 12th Congressional district since 1987; Pelosi is currently the 14th most senior member of the House of Representatives and the 7th senior Democrat. Pelosi has been the Democratic Leader of the House since 2003. Her tenure is not only longer than any other Democratic House Leader but also longer than the longest-serving Republican House leaders as well; Robert Mitchel (IL-18) served 14 years as Republican Leader of the House of Representatives from 1981–1995. (For comparison, the longest serving party leaders in the U.S. Senate are Mike Mansfield (D-MT) 16 years as Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate from 1961 to 1977 and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who served 11 years as the Republican Leader of the U.S. Senate from 2007 to 2018.)

In the NFL, Bill Belichick’s successful defensive strategy has been described as “taking away the opponents’ best option.” Nancy Pelosi has already made history as the longest serving Democratic Leader in the House and as the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives. If Pelosi wants to help her party win control of the House, she should announce in September that she will not run for House leadership in the 116th Congress. Such an announcement would give political cover to nascent Democratic House candidates as well as vulnerable Democratic incumbents. It takes away the go-to talking points of Republican candidates, pundits, and sympathetic media. At the same time, Trump’s high unfavorable poll numbers would still be available as talking points with independent voters. Like Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, Nancy Pelosi could go out on top. On January 3, 2019, Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) may well pass the Speaker’s Gavel ceremonially to Nancy Pelosi who would do well to pass the gavel to the next generation of House Democratic leaders.

 

~~~

The Counter Argument:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/15/politics/pelosi-doesnt-matter-in-midterms/index.html

 

Political Parties and the Future of the GOP

When Political Parties are Born

Even before the Constitution, there were Federalist and anti-Federalist factions. In George Washington’s administration, the government was divided between Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians. In his Farewell Address, Washington warned Americans about the danger of factions, but early Americans ignored the administration and rushed to form political parties.

The history of political parties in American history is referred to as political alignments. There are generally four recognized periods of alignment and realignment. The first alignment was a polarization between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, ending with the Era of Good Feelings. The second alignment was between the Democrats and Whigs; in 1852, Lewis Campbell of Ohio declared the end of the Whig Party: “The party is dead—dead—dead!” Out of the vacuum left by the collapse of the Whig Party, in 1854 John C. Fremont created the Grand Old Party dedicated to Federalism and the end of slavery. The party of the third alignment quickly became better known as the Republican Party. By 1932, however, the progressive Republican Party had become the party of laisse fair and small government. Almost incredulously, the fourth alignment occurred when President Franklin D. Roosevelt transformed the Democratic into the party of Federalism and Presidents Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson transformed the old party of the Confederacy into the party of Civil Rights.

He Did! So Can We!

The two enduring questions in the study of political parties in the United States are will there ever be a viable third party, and when will the next realignment occur? The Know Nothings, the Greenbacks, the Populists, and the Progressives have all failed to become permanent fixtures in American political history. One reason is that the two dominant parties have absorbed the issues of successful smaller parties.

Two of the most successful third parties in history, however, were not issued-based as much as personality-based. In 1912, the Cool Moose Party of former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt split enough of the Republican vote that the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, was elected President of the United States. The other significant third-party candidate, Ross Perot, won a significant portion of the popular vote in 1992, but it has never been completely clear whether he took more votes from President George H.W. Bush (R) or Governor Bill Clinton (D).

Popularism versus the Establishment

Both the Republican and Democratic Parties have internal divisions as well as their external struggles with each other. Most often, this is manifested as a battle for the soul of the party between populists and the establishment. The party that becomes more populist is usually the party that is out of power. The populist energy is often then harnessed into an electoral victory, wherein the populist party becomes the establishment and fuels the populist frustrations in the opposition party. Since the end of the Cold War, this dynamic has also been represented in the debate over internationalism as well.

The Fifth Alignment

There are those who believe that the fifth alignment has already occurred, whether it was the Reagan Democrats and the movement of Catholic voters toward the Republican Party or the Clinton electoral victory in 1992 and the Democratic embracing of Wall Street. However, in both of these situations, there was a movement from one pre-existing political party to another. While that is similar to the fourth alignment, the other three alignments occurred with the creation of a new political party ex nihilo.

In 2016, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina said that Donald Trump should have dropped out of the presidential race and let (then) Governor Mike Pence lead the ticket. Another Republican presidential primary candidate, John Kasich, never endorsed his party’s nominee. In fact, Kasich reportedly voted for John McCain in the presidential election. Both former Republican Presidents Bush reportedly voted for the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. Conservative journalists like George Will and Max Boot have left the Republican Party. Less famous Republicans like Susan Bevan and Susan Cullman have also publicly announced their departure from the Republican Party too.

The Libertarian Party has often thought to be the beneficiary of this fraternal division in the Republican Party. And, yes, Gary Johnson received 4,489,233 total votes (3.27%) of the national vote, coming in third in the election, and set a record for the Libertarian Party’s best performance. The other touted third-party candidate in 2016 was Evan McMullin. McMullin did receive 21.54% of the popular vote in Utah and 6.7% in Idaho. Yet neither candidate received a single vote out the 538 possible in the Electoral College or the necessary 270 votes to become President of the United States.

So, Who and When?

While the Freedom Caucus, Rand Paul (KY), and many so-called conservatives actually espouse a more libertarian philosophy than a traditional Republican platform, these politician and pundits are still affiliated with the Republican Party, not the Libertarian Party. Senator Paul is acutely aware that when his father ran for president as a Libertarian, there was not enough traction for a plausible victory. These Libertarian-Republicans are thus staying within the Republican Party to remake it in their image. With the victory of a populist Republican as President of the United States and the Freedom Caucus hold on the House Republicans, the question still remains: what will John Kasich, George Will, and traditional conservatives do in 2020 and beyond?

If Donald Trump, in fact, runs for president in 2020, there is little doubt that John Kasich will mount a Republican primary challenge. But could Kasich upset a sitting president? The evangelical wing of the Republican Party will support Trump because, among other motivations, the presence of Mike Pence on the party ticket. This is, of course, mere political conjecture. The potential Republican primary battle will be shaped by the outcome of the midterm elections in 2018 as well as the eventual Mueller report. If Trump wins another presidential election, however, many conservatives will likely just wait out the end of Trumpism and hope for a return to conservatism in 2024. After all, Trump neutered the Congressional Republicans by signing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and nominating Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

So, the fifth alignment will likely not appear anytime soon. There are no term limits on Congress; traditional Republicans will wait out the Trump Presidency, whether Trump is a one-term president or a two-term president. The loudest critics Kasich and Will are still employed, and others like Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Bob Corker (R-TN) are merely shooting backward while riding off into the subset. Perhaps the soon-to-be U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) will battle on the floor of the Senate Chambers for the heart and soul of the Republican Party, but there is not a viable third party on the horizon. Americans may have ignored Washington’s aversion to political parties, but Americans are loath to allow more than two parties or abandon the parties that have governed the United States since 1854.

Brett Kavanagh

Brett Kavanagh: The sky is falling! It’s the end of the world!

Yup, if you read moderate to left-leaning publications and blogs, you’ve probably heard that it’s the end of times for the US Supreme Court. Oh, the other hand, conservative-leaning sources warn of and are already complaining about Democratic lawmakers pulling out all kinds of tricks… really? Because McConnell and the Republican-led Senate treated Merrick Garland and Barrack Obama fairly?

Please… I’m not sure how many so-called “tricks” there are anyway. This confirmation has always, since the moment Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, been about John McCain, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly… it has never been about fair play or judicial qualifications. If it were, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Brett Kavanagh is a qualified as any member of the Supreme Court has been.

Kavanagh graduated from Yale Law School, served three clerkships, and been a Federal judge for 12 years. And those clerkships? One of them was with the very same Justice Anthony Kennedy that Democrats are bemoaning for retiring.

In fact, on June 1, 2006, Kavanagh was sworn in as a member of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals by Justice Anthony Kennedy. It seems to me that Kavanagh has the blessing of the very man celebrated for his decisions in gay rights cases and other 5-4 decisions.

Kennedy

But, at the same time, I think it’s also important to put Anthony Kennedy into historical perspective as we evaluate his potential successor. Yes, Kennedy voted with the majority in two cases quite dear to Democrats: Boumediene v. Bush and Obergefell v. Hodges. I dare say that Kennedy voted to maintain abortion rights in Planned Parenthood v. Casey too, though with increased limits. But Kennedy is no darling of causes liberal after all: Kennedy voted with the conservative on the Court in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, District of Columbia v. Heller, and Kansas v. Marsh.

Judge Kavanagh

In terms of Kavanagh’s own judicial decisions, supporters and critics alike point to Garza v Hargan and have declared – Kavanagh’s going to ban abortion! Personally, however, I know that I would not have wanted to make that decision; it’s not the open and shut case that many seem to think.

Breaking new: Kavanagh has been pro-business, critical of environmental regulation, and a supporter of Christian religious rights… wow… its almost like he’s a conservative appointee? And yet, judges are not susceptible to demands of lobbyists and the whims of voters; twice Kavanagh sided with the government in cases involving the Affordable Care Act. In another case, he errored on religious latitude in Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Religion

Which brings us to Kavanagh’s religious affiliation and its role in judicial decision-making. Yes, it is worth discussing Kavanagh’s religion to a limited degree. Kavanagh is Roman Catholic and, as such, will maintain the Catholic majority of the US Supreme Court. Having said that, however, what does that even mean? The Catholic majority has not voted en bloc: the conservative Catholics have voted to support the death penalty, and the liberal Catholics have supported abortion-rights, so it seems to me that Kavanagh’s political ideology is more influential than his religion. If you do want to discuss his Catholicity more, it is worth noting that he is a volunteer tutor at Washington Jesuit Academy; the fact that Kavanagh volunteers his time, and with Jesuits, speaks more to me that his Mass attendance.

Mitch McConnell, Merrick Garland, Justin Kennedy, and Donald Trump

Politically, there is a lot that sticks about recent nominations to the US Supreme Court. From the refusal to call for a vote on Merrick Garland, to the elimination of the filibuster rule to favor Neil Gorsuch, McConnell personifies the hypocrisy and ‘Swamp’ of Washington, DC. But that’s not Kavanagh’s fault; he played the game and worked his way up to be in consideration for a nomination, just as liberal lawyers and judges have done as well.

Should we mention the end of the apolitical court and Bush v. Gore? Kennedy voted with the supposed States’ Rights conservatives to assert Federal authority over the Florida ballot counting at the same time that the pro-Federal Democrats on the Court voted to support States’ Rights. The veil of judicial independence had finally been lifted.

Even worse, the recent revelations about family connections between Anthony Kennedy and Donald Trump are disappointing, nauseating, and potentially unethical. But that has nothing to do with Brett Kavanagh.

I think we owe it to Brett Kavanagh, and more importantly to ourselves, to judge Kavanagh with the Golden Rule, not by McConnell’s Rules.

Which brings me to my second to last points: the art of predicting SCOTUS voting.

Nominations to the US Supreme Court

When I think about the history of Supreme Court nominations, I think of Harriet Myers; I think we can all agree Kavanagh is more qualified and his nomination (Kennedy-Trump connections aside) less nepotistic than a president nominating a member of his staff.

If you want qualified, has there ever been a more qualified nominee than Judge Robert Bork? Yet being qualified wasn’t the issue, it was his well-documented history of judicial decisions. As a result, presidents of both parties have nominated younger, less documented judges ever since; so, it would be hypocritical to criticize Kavanagh for his judicially-speaking nascent age of 53.

But most of all, when I think about nominations to the US Supreme Court, I think of Earl Warren. Nominated by Republican US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Warren, when lifted from the confinement of political accountability, Warren became the most liberal Chief Justice in history. I also think of Sandra Day O’Connor and how disappointed Reagan and the conservatives were with her voting record… but more recently, I think of the make-up nomination to Judge Bork, Douglas Ginsburg. Can you believe we almost had a member of the Supreme Court who smoked marijuana?!!?! Thank goodness, Ginsburg withdrew his nomination… after all, could you imagine two Ginsburgs on the same Court? So, President Ronald Reagan settled on a Circuit Judge with exactly 12 years of experience to be his reliable conservative. That Associate Justice, of course, was Anthony Kennedy.

Chief Justice John Roberts

Finally, there is the nature of the Court and the leadership style of Chief Justice John Roberts. Supreme Court Justices do not make isolated decisions in a vacuum. The Nine meet privately and reflect upon each case, circulating draft decisions for discussion. Roberts, in particular even among other Chief Justices, is acutely aware of the partisan poison in American and has worked hard to build 7+, 8+, and even unanimous decisions. Look no further than Masterpiece Cake v CCRC. In the room of consensus, Kavanagh is just one voice. Yes, he is a conservative voice, but the deliberative and congenial nature of the Court lends itself to being caretakers of the Constitution, not Lone Ranger Constitutional cowboys.

Conclusion

Brett Kavanagh has said the right things. In 2006, Kavanagh told the US Senate, “I firmly disagree with the notion that there are Republican judges and [Democratic] judges,” he said. “There is one kind of judge. There is an independent judge under our Constitution.”

Like Roberts, Kavanaugh seems to give broad consideration to executive authority and unitary executive theory; yet Kavanagh has also worked for the Independent Council’s Office and wrote sections of the Starr Report that criticized President Bill Clinton and, ultimately, was used as an instrument to impeach Clinton.

So, who is the real Brett Kavanagh? I think we’ll have to wait until he’s actually been confirmed and begins to make his mark. Ultimately, we won’t really know until he’s been on the court for 30 years like his old boss, Anthony Kennedy.