Monthly Archives: December 2015

Opening Relations with Cuba: Will the Republicans Reverse It?

Obama seeks ‚Äėirreversible‚Äô opening to Cuba

December 14, 2015

This story is part of a weeklong Yahoo series marking one year since the opening of relations between the United States and Cuba.

As Barack Obama contemplates the legacy of his consequential two-term presidency, aides in the West Wing of the White House can be heard using the word ‚Äúirreversible.‚ÄĚ They apply it to Obamacare, to the Iran nuclear deal, and now, increasingly, to the historic opening with Cuba announced one year ago.

Full story:

Who Wants Trump to Be President: Some More Insights

Friends:¬† If I live to see my late 80s and beyond, one thing I am absolutely sure of is that there will be lots of¬†books, seminars, and academic conferences of scholars¬†dedicated to understanding the Donald Trump campaign in the 2016 election.¬†¬† A major historical phenomenon is unfolding before our very eyes.¬† With that in mind, an important part of it, for journalists and social scientists today and for historians in the future, is finding patterns as to who are the Trump supporters.¬† And, in that vein, one of the first things we have to come to grips with is that they do not all fit one profile.¬† For starters, they’re not even all white.¬† That’s right, you heard me.

Here are a couple of the latest stories on the subject:

Yahoo News story

WNYC report¬† (Note:¬† This report contains a clip from “All in the Family”¬†in which¬†Archie¬†Bunker¬†uses a one-syllable¬†pejorative racial term.)

Trump and the Meaning of a Demagogue

Political scientist Michael Signer identifies four characteristics of a demagogue:

1. claiming to represent the masses:
2. stirring up great emotion;
3. using that emotion to political benefit; and
4. threatening or breaking established rules of governance.

When I teach this course next semester, I am going to do even more with this theme, with the study of both demagogues and the people who flock to them, because at the moment we have ourselves a live one with Donald Trump and all the people who think this idiotic narcissist should be president.

Here are a couple of resources on the subject.

NPR interview with Michael Signer:

The following work hasn’t been through any peer-review process, so it can’t really be vouched for, but it represents one professor’s point of view about the psychology of the people who follow demagogues. ¬†One of my Facebook friends forwarded it to me, and it seems to me to make some sense. ¬†¬† Unlike the sound of the word, the term “authoritarian personality” applies not to the dictators and demagogues, but to those in the public¬†who put them in power or at least try to. ¬†There were also authoritarian personality studies after World War II, to explain the rise of Hitler.

Update: Court Heard Abigail Fisher’s Case Wed. Dec. 9

Wednesday, December 9, 2015, the Supreme Court heard the arguments in the Abigail Fisher case. ¬†The question is whether the very competitive University of Texas, by taking race into account even to the mathematically small degree that it does, for purposes of a diverse student body, violates the Fourteenth Amendment. ¬† The prevailing rule from past cases is that such a scheme can stand if, and only if, it (1) serves a compelling interest and (2) can withstand strict scrutiny. ¬†The last time the Supreme Court heard Abigail’s case, it sent the case back to the circuit court, telling the circuit court that it had only applied a “good faith” test (as in, finding that officials at UT had acted in good faith) and must decide the case applying the “strict scrutiny” test. ¬†From there, the circuit court ruled that the Texas plan¬†did pass the strict scrutiny test. ¬†Abigail is appealing this ruling.

Because Justice Elena Kagan is recusing herself from the case, there is a possibility of a tie.  If there is a tie vote, the circuit court ruling against Abigail will stand.

The justices themselves will know the outcome in a couple of days, when they have their private deliberation. ¬†The rest of us won’t know a thing for a few more months.

Politico story:

NPR story:



Trump Still Boasts He’s ‘Not Politically Correct’

Students in my classes in the current semester may recall that I¬†pointed out on opening night that both Trump and Carson dismissed Megyn Kelly’s questions as being about whether to be “politically correct” or not. I made the point that when people refer to their views as being “not politically correct,” the truth is that their views are¬†very politically correct for the audience they’re playing to, which is part of what makes that term itself utterly meaningless even though the people who use it think it has loads of meaning. ¬†Well…Trump is at it again, and as usually, when he says that something he’s saying is “not politically correct,” the crowd goes wild with applause. ¬†For them, “not politically correct” means “telling it like it is.”

Here’s the latest instance of it.


The Trump and Wallace Campaigns Compared

In 1968, former Alabama governor George Wallace ran for president on a third-party ticket. ¬†Unlike Donald Trump, Wallace was an experienced politician with some genuine ideologies. ¬†But there are some similarities, especially when it comes to which sector of the American population they’re playing to. ¬†This article on the Politico website explores that.

As I’ve been saying in class, last spring nobody considered Trump a viable candidate for the Republican nomination. ¬†Now, the establishment Republicans are getting worried–really worried. ¬†Story here.

What’s going on in Congress

Where in the past the phrase “reach across the aisle” has been used favorably to talk about Republicans and Democrats working together, on a lot of issues the question is whether the conservative Republicans (including the House and Senate Republicans leaders) and the ultra-ultra-ultra conservative Republicans (the Freedom Caucus, the Tea Party, Ted Cruz) can find any common ground. ¬†A few examples from Politico this week:

Scalise Gets Serious“: ¬†This is about the challenges House Majority Whip Steve Scalise faces dealing with the Freedom Caucus. ¬†It is an embarrassment to the party leadership when a bloc of Republicans vote against must-pass legislation on ideological grounds when the ideological principle in question doesn’t stand a chance of becoming law and only serves to hold up lawmaking. ¬†(Scalise¬†would have loved to move up to Majority Leader if Kevin McCarthy had become Speaker.)

Freedom Caucus Versus McConnell“: ¬†The campaign finance law revisions that Mitch McConnell wants to pass would make it easier for political party committees to campaign. ¬†Why doesn’t the Freedom Caucus like this? ¬†Because party committees (including the Republican one) represent party establishments, and these Republicans are the challengers to the establishment Republicans. ¬†This involves both presidential and congressional campaigns.

Clarification on some points in this article. Three different entities are involved: party committees, PACs, and superPACs.¬†Right now, party committees can donate $5,000 per candidate per election, and can spend varying limited amounts of money running their own ads coordinated with candidates and their official campaign. They can also do unlimited spending on ads not coordinated with candidates and their official campaigns.¬†PACs can spend $5,000 per election in coordination with a candidate. ¬†SuperPACS can do all the spending they want, but not¬†coordinated with candidates and their official campaigns. ¬†¬†The Republican leadership in Congress wants to lift the restrictions on what party committees can do–which would give the establishment wings of the parties an edge over their insurgent wings.

McConnell Boxes in Cruz, Rubio…“: ¬†First things first: ¬†The bill that they want to send to Obama is guaranteed to be vetoed, and guaranteed not to be¬†passed over the President’s veto. ¬†So it’s purely a show of what they¬†wish they could enact¬†if only they had a Republican president or a two-thirds majority in Congress. ¬†With that in mind, the pragmatic establishment Republicans are up against the ideological purists when it comes to what they want to go on record as¬†wishing they could enact.

And yet…some¬†bipartisan legislation¬†does get passed in Congress, even now.

Revision of “No Child Left Behind” ¬†(On a side note, I know that some public school educators call it the “No Teacher Left Standing” act.)