Memories of the Ford Administration

Is the President as bad as some say? David Brooks suggests that all depends…. While the administration collapses or perhaps reverts to a plutocratic mean, how does one resist, or think about the day after, the n+11? Much depends on whether one sees this administration as something altogether new, an Americanized version of hard right kleptocrats everywhere, or as an echo of another era. Is this the regime of Jackson or of the Gilded Age?

Brooks opts for the latter. What is needed is the restoration of sound government, of good government, of the Mugwumps (though he doesn’t use that word). In short, a government that Jerry Ford could love.

How Should One Resist the Trump Administration?

 

Evolution?

Rep. Justin Amash held a town hall meeting at City HS auditorium and the place was packed. What was striking to many was the engagement.The big lesson (always!) is that you don’t have to agree, but you do have to listen. And you don’t have to agree with him to admire him.

There is, I think, a growth from the brash 20-something bomb thrower a decade ago. At the time of his election I wondered how the office, how time would change him. Would he end up as a sort of ideological purist, on the fringe? Would he migrate to an official (and powerful) libertarian platform? Who would he become? For him, Trump is a gift, pushing back, standing for the Constitution, Amash builds a broader base than he did in the last years of Obama. At last the  stance begins to get traction, and his skills of communication finally show up. Justin Swan sees as much in a Facebook post,

My response to the noise against him, beginning back in 2010 has been “have you heard him speak? Because if you hear him speak, you wouldn’t say what you just said about him.”… finally, people from both sides of the isle are hearing him speak, and for the most part, they like what they hear OR they respect where he’s coming from.

More on this from Rachel Bade at Politico:

How one GOP congressman tamed pro-Obamacare protesters

Wild at Heart?

In Donald Trump and Militant Evangelical MasculinityKristin du  Mez points to the obvious connection of the Evangelical church to a militant masculinity.

a masculinity that has enshrined patriarchal authority, condoned a callous display of power at home and abroad, and functioned as a linchpin in the political and social worldviews of conservative white evangelicals. In the end, many evangelicals did not vote for Trump despite their beliefs, but because of them.

She notes the usual players, James Dobson, Promise Keepers, and of course John Eldredge’s Wild at HeartPerhaps what is missing however are the external cultural trends (Evangelicals are nothing if  not culturally alert). Culturally, the early turn to masculine narratives follows two other important trends. First, there was the emergence of families among the Baby Boomers — this is what fuels Dobson’s initial impact, why he gained such a voice across the church (we forget how big the early Focus on the Family programs really were, how they were even used by non-evangelical churches). Second, there is the role of Robert Bly and “mythopoetic men’s movement” (ah, drum circles!).

What is striking about the Evangelical-Trump alliance which she details.

Trump’s testosterone-fueled masculinity, … aligns remarkably well with that long championed by evangelicals. What makes a strong leader? A virile (white) man. And what of his vulgarity? Infidelity? Bombast? Even sexual assault? Well, boys will be boys.

However the longing for a strong leader represents something of an idealization. It is not the pursuit of masculinity, of being a guy doing guy things, but of an ideal. Trump then represents more the absence of something than the thing itself, what we “want” or we miss rather than as an exemplar. This is the hidden ambiguity, of masculine identity as ideal over against the reality of the day-to-day life in cubicle land; Mark Driscoll v. Rick Warren.

Senator Milquetoast

It’s good that U.S. Senator Gary Peters has spoken out against the President’s anti-immigration Executive Order. But sadly, the voice is muffled.

“As a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Armed Services Committees, my top priority is ensuring we’re doing everything we can to keep Americans safe. But I am also proud to represent vibrant Muslim and Arab American communities that are integral to Michigan’s culture and our economy.

The first sentence is pure political muffery: “my top priority… doing everything… keep Americans safe.” What is missing is a clear point of view, what he (or his office) thinks. The second sentence is little better: he’s “proud to represent.” yeah yeah yeah. This is indirect speech, at a distant from a straight forward presentation of the case.

There are big, legitimate issues of national security involved. This is the natural forceful lead. And it’s powerful, as Mother Jones demonstrates.

In the second paragraph Sen. Peters compounds his wishy-washiness.

“One of America’s founding – and most sacred – principles is the freedom of religion. I am extremely alarmed by President Trump’s executive order that effectively implements a religious test for those seeking to enter the United States…

The shift to First Amendment issues has a nice ring to it, but again one may ask whether it demonstrates a grasp of the actual Constitutional issues involved with the Executive Order. If anything the focus on Freedom of Religion plays into the cultural push of the President’s order, namely that of privileging Christian America. Immediate feedback from Trump supporters indicates their approval of the action. So rather than change opinion the appeal to the First is a sign of political boundary making. It is a lost opportunity.

And then finally there is a return to muffery with the final sentence:

 “While I support continued strengthening of the refugee screening process, I remain opposed to the suspension of the refugee admissions program.”

This is the sound of a man trying to have it both ways. “While I….” Oh, be direct. Know what time it is, and what the issues are. In the days ahead the battle needs far more direct, far clearer expression of ideas. Now is no time to waffle.