7/28/2018—Readers of this blog know of my concern for the future of American public life. We can’t rule out anything, even a military coup or cancelled elections.
You can blame certain people for our current state, if you want, but I keep reminding people that Americans have been polarized and divided since the election of Bill Clinton, over twenty-five years ago. Not a single Republican in Congress voted for Clinton’s first budget. The deadlock was occurring then. Don’t blame President Trump or Hillary Clinton.
The problem is not this or that policy difference. Americans distrust and hate each other. The rabbis asked, how did Jerusalem, the holy city, fall to the Romans? They answered, baseless hatred. The defenders of the city were so busy fighting each other that they could not join together against their common enemy. That is America today.
What do we do? Calls for civility are irrelevant. We must change our thinking.
To paraphrase St. Paul, and now abides, truth, justice and democracy.
Everything starts with truth. We are told we have entered a post-truth era, even that there is no possibility of a fair representation of history.
These claims are themselves false. They are really just bad habits of mind. And they are self-contradictory. So, we must begin by taking back truth.
I am beginning that effort with a billboard in Erie County in August. Look for more details and the August 23 announcement. Hint—tax cuts don’t pay for themselves.
Next is justice. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Because he believed that, he did not hate his enemies. His view was formed by Christianity, but is available to all of us. We do not believe this, or we are not sure what we believe, and that is why we hate each other.
So, look for a kickstarter campaign in which I raise money for a demonstration of the Bends Toward Justice Podcast Series. I plan to travel the country asking all sorts of people whether they agree with Dr. King and then to archive the podcasts. The goal is to reopen the question of moral realism and the shape of history. Does history bend toward justice? Does the universe? If so, why and how? A new view of religion may be born here.
Finally, democracy. Read the book, How Democracies Die, by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. The book tells the story of how various democracies have died and how we are moving in that direction. We must put aside all other differences and prevent this.
As law professors, our best contribution would be the creation of a bipartisan caucus to convince the Supreme Court—especially the coming new conservative majority—that the norm of democracy is constitutionally protected in ways the Justices have not yet announced. Specifically, the intent to frustrate the will of the people must be treated with the same opposition as the intent to racially discriminate.
So, gerrymanders, voter ID laws and any manipulation of the Electoral College must be seen as presumptively unconstitutional.
Can law professors come together in a pro-democracy caucus without regard to Party when we have been as partisan as anyone, if not more so? Why not, if the alternative is the possible destruction of constitutional government of any sort? So far, not much success. But the effort is young.
There you have it. Overall, one small effort to address the emergency.