When You’re Right, You’re Right

When folks on the Right are right, it’s worth noting–and applauding.

A few weeks ago, when some polls were showing a dead-heat Presidential contest, an article in the Weekly Standard titled “Donald Trump Cannot Save Our Republic” began

With the election now a virtual dead heat, conservative opponents to Donald Trump have never faced greater pressure to support him. Capitulation is needed, it is said, because the survival of the republic is at stake. If we allow Hillary Clinton to win the presidency, our constitutional system of government will be destroyed forevermore. Thus, we have no choice but to forbear.

This rhetoric is well-designed to prey upon the fears of conservatives who loathe Hillary Clinton, but it is not the language of American republicanism. Indeed, the fact that it has gained such traction on the right is a signal that many conservatives themselves have lost touch with the traditions of our constitutional system.

Put simply: This argument places the presidency at the center of American political life, which is a progressive innovation popularized by Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. The Framers rejected this implicitly, for most of their attention was spent perfecting the legislative branch, which was to be the primary repository of political power, as well as the tribune of the people.

The article argued that support for Trump would not only be implicit support for the (relatively) new centrality of the Presidency, it would allow conservatives and others to  continue ignoring the real problem: Congress.

The ailment, simply put, is this: Congress is a basket case. It refuses to exercise many of its sovereign responsibilities under the Constitution. Many of the tasks it retains it executes badly. Worst of all, the legislature itself has ceded these authorities. They were not taken from it, but granted, happily, of its own volition. A return to true constitutional government does not require us to elect a kingly president who vaguely sympathizes with the platform of the Republican party, but insisting that the legislature reconstitute itself under the Framers’ original vision.

I do not necessarily agree with every point raised in the article, but its major thrust is clearly on target. I’ve written previously about the consequences of Americans’ evident–and troubling–belief that every four years we elect a monarch, who will either keep the promises made on the campaign trail, or earn public ire for failing to do so.

That drastically inaccurate view of the executive ignores Constitutional checks and balances, blames whoever holds the office of President for doing or not doing things over which he (or she) has influence but ultimately no control, and–worse– lets Congress off the hook. That view also explains why turnout falls off precipitously in off-year elections.

Voters who don’t recognize the importance of the legislative function fail to pay attention to the qualifications and temperament–let alone the work ethic–of those they send to Congress. The result is a legislature filled with partisan ideologues, empty suits (and too often, idiots) who are woefully unprepared to carry their share of the governing load.

As the article notes, “Reform of the legislature begins with electing to it a majority that is actually interested in reform.” To which I would add, “and actually interested in governing.”

The Presidency is important. In this election,which offers a choice between a well-qualified politician who operates–in P.J. O’Rourke’s memorable phrase–within normal paramagnets, and a dangerously autocratic ignoramus, it is supremely important. But we ignore our choices for the Senate and House at the nation’s peril.

17 thoughts on “When You’re Right, You’re Right

  1. I believe most of the participants on this blog are well aware of this, but how do we manage to get this message across to our friends and neighbors – especially if they are against anyone (us) who supports the Democratic party?

    It seems that their eyes and ears are completely closed to seeing or hearing anything other than the absolute hatred that has been drummed up by their sources of information…….Fox and the extremist radio hosts. They also hear and discuss this hatred at their places of worship.

  2. I missed the local Senate debate between Evan Bayh and Todd Young but read Matthew Tully’s column this morning. I have been aware of the much touted and oft used accusation that Bayh left the Senate to work as a lobbyist for six years and is now back to regain his Senate seat when Baron Hill dropped out of the race. Who else does this Democratic party have? True words in this basically untruthful election at all levels but…Dan Coats dropped out of his Senate race late in the game, moved south for fourteen years to work as a lobbyist and returned to buy back his Senate seat which he is vacating for the second time. Are you still with me on that political runaround? We can’t tell the players without a scorecard here at home but we MUST NOT let the presidential cat-and-dog-fight distract us from all local elections which can mean vital changes locally AND nationally if we remove Pence’s choice (guided by Daniels) for governor and put Bayh in to replace Coats.

    The state of Indiana is leaning so far right there is a great danger of falling off the edge of the world in this flat-earth society here. Pence at the national level parroting Trump’s words and deeds – well, sort of – he only THINKS Trump means the media is rigging the election and not the polls, is a dangerous situation. I said weeks ago I did not see Trump conceding this election without a fight (he proved me right last night); in this case, with his supporters we are in danger of actual physical fights in the streets if (when) he loses. I have also said and will repeat; I do NOT see this election ending peacefully. The far-right element seeks war as their solution to all manners of problems; if that means civil war here at home, they will not hesitate. They have shoved Trump’s accusation of Global (Jewish) rigging of the election back under their rock; here in Indiana Pence (Daniels’ clone) has been openly against all factions but Jews…openly, we know not what the underside of this GOP run state is nurturing.

  3. All of which is why we must dismantle Republican control of the majority of state legislative chambers and governor’s offices, and work to ensure competitive congressional districts.

  4. JoAnn, wouldn’t it be bittersweet if Trump and Pence lost Indiana and turned Indiana blue again? I know, I’m a dreamer.

  5. Love the PJ O’Rourke quote. Had to look up paramagnet as it wasn’t in my working vocabulary and was reminded once again why I enjoy reading his work (despite disagreeing with his politics today). I grew up reading him in The National Lampoon and continue to marvel at his ability to remain relevant and funny.

    And yes, the Congress is not only a mess, it is an embarrassment and indictment of We The People’s lack of involvement in the political process. As Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us…”

  6. It would be nice to have a true balance between the three branches of government, but historically there has always been a push-pull between the legislative and executive branches. It is only in the last 25 years or so that the Congress seems to have abandoned all pretense of performing its duties.

    Most of the blame for this belongs squarely on the shoulders of Republicans. Admittedly Democrats have ceded some of their authority to the President with horrors like the Iraq War resolution, but this pales in comparison to the Republican efforts.

    The Republicans have created a cottage industry within the Congress by investigating every shadow they think they see in any Democrat who holds the Office of the President. As an example, they now want to hold hearings to impeach the director of the IRS, who wasn’t even in his position when the not-for-profit issue that the impeachment is based on occurred. They decided, even before he took office, that they would oppose anything that Obama proposed. They have rendered compromise obsolete and bragged about it. They also have the shortest work calendar in history, in session only 1/3 of any given year. They have wasted trillions of taxpayer dollars to make Congress a con game.

    I know my rants sometimes get tiresome, but I always come back to deTocqueville: “In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.” Vote, not just this year, but every year an election is held.

  7. JoAnn,

    “They have shoved Trump’s accusation of Global (Jewish) rigging of the election back under their rock; here in Indiana Pence (Daniels’ clone) has been openly against all factions but Jews…openly, we know not what the underside of this GOP run state is nurturing.”

    Maybe to you, but not his constituency. Trump’s opening salvo last night was against Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg. Ginsburg=Jews. Like Nazi Germany, Trump uses code words. In Nazi Germany, it was liberal=Jews. In the U.S., many evangelical ministers, especially those in the Southern Baptist Convention have been using the code word LIBERAL=JEWS for at least 50 years without a word from the Anti-Defamation League or the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    We’ll never wake up in time. As the author Doris Lessing explained many years ago, except for a few exceptions, human beings never take pre-emptive action.

    There are more Southern Baptist ministers in the U.S. than Catholic priests. Why do you think the hatred against Jews and other minorities is running wild?

    My take last night, like I had earlier warned in the morning, Trump made a call for all-out civil/racial warfare.

    I viewed last night’s debate on the Fox Network channel. Even their commentator was speechless at the end of the debate over Trump’s refusal to say that he would end the fight if he lost. He couldn’t end it now even if he wanted to. He didn’t create the mess. He only ignited it.

  8. I am not in thrall to The Weekly Standard, a right wing rag, but as my younger brother used to say, “Even a blind hog can find an acorn once in a while.” The article cited is right on; we have made monarchs out of our executives when they constitute only one of Madison’s tripartite departments and, in his mind, subservient to the legislative branch. Unfortunately, the legislative branch as of late has little to nothing to show on behalf of the people who elected them, preferring instead to divvy up the spoils in favor of those with deep campaign pockets. The answer, as usual, is to educate the masses on such reality, but it is a slow process, and those in charge of legislative processes are not chomping at the bit to educate voters lest such voters vote them out of office, as in “Keep ’em dumb,” as demonstrated by the Texas School Board’s removal of civics from the state’s high school curriculum. Tsk!

  9. Cheer-up all, As I believe I’ve mentioned before, “Don’t ever forget what happened to General George Custer and his troops as they pranced into the Little Big Horn.” As we all know, history has a way of repeating itself.

    If his intelligence had been better, would Custer still have led his troops into a suicidal mission?
    Not a chance.

    Donald Trump needs to wise up. If that’s humanly possible.

  10. It is good to be see them talking about the three branches of government, but I have a different take on the article.

    When Reagan was President with a Democratic congress (also for President Bush – pere and fils), my conservative friends told me that “all of America” voted for the President, so Congress should go along.

    When Clinton, and later Obama, were stuck with a Republican Congress, these same people were arguing that the Congress “was closer to the people and were elected every two years”, and thus the President should do as the Congress directs.

    This seems like an extension of that argument. They are pretty certain that President Clinton will be in office with a Republican House, if not also the Senate.

    My guy is strong and forceful, doing the people’s will. Your guy is an Imperial President usurping power. It seems to me that Reagan (Iran Contra) was the last President to ignore the explicit “will of Congress”.

    Actually, when I read the phrase “Imperial President”, I always think of Nixon. At least if Trump is elected (heaven forbid), the palace guard will be dressed in more tasteful uniforms.

  11. Len; how can the Court Jester also be the Imperial President? Oh, wait; Trump is two-faced so he could manage this by simply maintaining his normal personality.

  12. There is an interesting intellectual challenge between the two positions. Is there more value in honoring the Constitution strictly interpreted as the founders intended or adapted to current times?

    Without getting into the whole problem here’s one thing that’s sure. If President Obama had been a strict founding interpreter, the republic might not now be functioning at all.

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