21
Sun, Apr

Fate of Extremism in a Centrist Nation

VOICES

THE VIEW FROM HERE - This article follows up on the prior article, Who Murdered the American Political Center?    Is it possible that as we move from the resurrection of Easter towards the Jewish Freedom Holiday of Passover, that American Centrism is still alive? 

So many Americans have internalized our centrist socio-political culture that we operate on a subconscious automatic pilot. Who cannot drive to the office without conscious attention to the process?  The problem with internalization of our centrist socio-political culture is that we’ve lost the ability to articulate it.  We feel in our gut when something is amiss, but most Americans are at a lost to provide an accurate analysis.  Thus, we fall for charlatans from both the Right and the Left extremes with their misleading and false shibboleths. 

What Is Our Centrist Socio-Political Culture? 

Colloquially speaking, it is this: “You may come to America and join us provided you accept our core values.”  Emma Lazarus’ (1849–1887) poem inscribed at the base of the Statute of Liberty expresses our core value: 

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

 

The Declaration of Independence declares our two core values.  They are: 

(1) Consent of the Governed, 

(2) Individual inalienable rights including Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. 

In 1776, however, educated people did not need the reasoning underlying consent of the governed explained to them.  To be blunt, those in rebellion had to act with mutual cooperation with each other and those who were loyalists to Great Britain should get out, and thousands did return to England or move north to Canada. The idea that the Continental Congress could operate with monarchists making policy for the colonies in rebellion was self-evident nonsense.  While the colonialists did not agree with each other on everything, they recognized the need for a government with mutual cooperation. No other government could function. 

After the war, America tried the Articles of Confederation, which proved to be a failure because the Articles were too weak and allowed the individual states too much latitude so that no mutual cooperation emerged.  Thus, the Continental Congress was called to draft a new Constitution.  The drafters realized that they need a Union, which meant we needed a central government based on mutual cooperation of divergent interests. No easy task.

As the Federalist Papers discussed, men are drawn apart by “factions,” e.g., special interest groups, which place their personal benefit ahead of the general welfare. While Lord Acton did not make his classic statement, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” until 1887, the constitution’s framers, especially men like Benjamin Franklin, understood the principle very well.  Factions separate us, and thus, the government needs to balance one power center against another power center in order to achieve “mutual cooperation.”  

Notice that “mutual cooperation” did not mean agreement. The bicameral Congress with its House, which has two year terms based on population, and with its Senate, which had six year terms with two senators no matter the state’s population, balanced the power of the more populous states with the less populous.  The special interests of the large population centers did not change, nor did the special interests of the low population states. However, the structure of the two houses of Congress tempered the power of all factions so that the nation could move ahead on the basis of mutual cooperation. 

Extremism Kills Mutual Cooperation 

While Abraham Lincoln is known for freeing the slaves, that was not his objective. On June 16, 1858, in his House Divided Speech, Lincoln said: 

“‘A house divided against itself, cannot stand.’ I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

Just as a nation in rebellion against King George could not have the King’s loyalists in the government, America could no longer function with the two extremes – freedom v slavery. We had tried a series of compromises, but all failed.  When the Kansas Nebraska Act (1854) repealed the Missouri Compromise (1820), the free v slave status of the new territories would be determined by the democratic vote of the new settlers. Mayhem resulted, giving rise to the phrase “Bleeding Kansas.” Any area populated by opposing extremes devolves into violence.  Extremism kills mutual cooperation.  The crucial element which guaranteed the civil war was the reliance on democratic elections to determine whether a new territory would be free or slave.  Such elections focus the extremists’ attention on getting 50% plus 1 of the vote – by hook, by crook, or by murder. 

America Is Divided Between Two Absurd Extremes: MAGA and Wokeism 

The political challenge facings us Americans is how to re-establish a government where civility and mutual cooperation are restored.  Both extremes have adopted treasonous ideologies. See MAGA and Wokeism Pose Existential Threats to America . 

From reading the tea leaves, it appears that the moderate conservative GOP has been surreptitiously organizing to take down MAGA, i.e., Donald Trump.  Perhaps this is my wishful thinking, but maybe the following is what is afoot. 

Former Judge J. Michael Luttig’s Bizarre Interpretation of the 14th Amendment 

Judge Luttig is a constitutional scholar and conservative icon, and thus, he is a heavy weight in GOP circles. He supported using the 14th Amendment to remove Trump from the ballots in many states.  No honest constitutionalist could believe that the 14th Amendment applied to a candidate; by its words, it applies only to an insurrectionist tries to hold office, which means he has to have been elected.  Then, whether the insurrectionist may hold that office requires that both the House and the Senate independently agree by a 2/3 vote, that the insurrectionist may serve.  There is no role for any court. When Judge Luttig supported the absurd notion that the 14th Amendment applies to a candidate, one of two situations applied. (1) He had dementia, (2) He found Trump posed lethal danger to the Republic. 

On March 25, 2024, after the Supreme Court had correctly shot down the 14th Amendment approach, we see that Judge Luttig is not demented but Trump is a danger who must be stopped.  See Newsweek,  Former Judge Lays Out 'Only Way' to Break Donald Trump Predicament.  Luttig said: 

"Donald Trump has bludgeoned America into submission to his will over the will of the Constitution and the American people. It's just that plain and that simple, . . . The only way to break that is through the rule of law...until or unless the courts of the United States apply the rule of law to Donald Trump, I don't see a way out of the predicament that the country finds itself in today." 

Judge Luttig could not have been clearer if he had held up a placard, saying “DOWN WITH TRUMP!”  Judge Luttig continued that if the courts do not act, then the people need to vote against Trump in November 2024. 

What Does Trump Loyalist and New Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, Say about Extremism? 

In a rebuke to MAGA extremism, Speaker Mike Johnson invoked his constitutional law credentials to assert that “consensus” and not extremism is the American way. (New Yorker Magazine 3-25-24 page 50)

On Sunday morning, March 31, 2024, GOP chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Turner (R OH) said that the aid package to Ukraine has to pass.  Trump, as we should all know, opposes aid to Ukraine due to his Narcissistic Hissy Fit that Zelenskyy did not interfere in the 2016 Presidential elections to help Trump. 

After the deranged MAGA Trumper Marjorie-Taylor Greene filed a motion to vacate Speaker Johnson over the House vote to keep the government funded, the House went into recess.  Allegedly minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-MI) has said that the Dems will not support the motion to vacate Johnson as they had with former Speaker McCarthy.  On Meet the Press (3-31-24), Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said that he would follow Jeffries’ lead and vote against the Motion to Vacate. In other words, the most liberal Dems will vote in favor of the ultra-conservative Speaker Johnson. 

Why Take down Trump When Wokeism Is a Bigger Threat? 

First things first. It will be easier to stop Trump than to stop Wokeism. Both MAGA and Wokeism are lethal threats, but dethroning the deranged cult leader is the easier of the two tasks.