America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny — NYMag

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Murali

Murali did his undergraduate degree in molecular biology with a minor in biophysics from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He then changed direction and did his Masters in Philosophy also at NUS. Now, he is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Warwick.

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  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    Direct democracy didn’t just elect Congress and the president anymore; it expanded the notion of who might be qualified for public office. Once, candidates built a career through experience in elected or Cabinet positions or as military commanders; they were effectively selected by peer review. That elitist sorting mechanism has slowly imploded. In 1940, Wendell Willkie, a businessman with no previous political office, won the Republican nomination for president, pledging to keep America out of war and boasting that his personal wealth inoculated him against corruption: “I will be under obligation to nobody except the people.” He lost badly to Franklin D. Roosevelt, but nonetheless, since then, nonpolitical candidates have proliferated, from Ross Perot and Jesse Jackson, to Steve Forbes and Herman Cain, to this year’s crop of Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and, of course, Donald J. Trump. This further widening of our democracy — our increased openness to being led by anyone; indeed, our accelerating preference for outsiders — is now almost complete.

    And how much of that is because the party elites were more interested in padding their own nests & power base instead of focusing on the responsibility of service? No one ever expected national politicians to be paupers, but when they tend to leave service firmly ensconced in the upper echelons of the 1%, people start to wonder whether service is even remotely in their hearts.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Oscar Gordon
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      says:

      As with pretty much everything else, you pay for what you get. If you want gold standard politicians, you’ve got to pay them a gold standard salary and throw the bums out if there is even a whiff of them engaging in petty corruption. Drown them in money that they don’t even know what to do with and they wouldn’t dare step out of line. After all, with a big salary, there would be more candidates and you don’t have to choose between competent but corrupt and honest but stupid. You get enough who are competent and clean. But, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Murali
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        says:

        National politicians are adequately compensated. As for state politicians, New York’s get handsome salaries and often have side businesses or professional consultancies because the state work’s not full time.Report

        • Avatar Murali in reply to Art Deco
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          says:

          Yet, american politicians are still, by and large so crappy. Where is all your executive talent?Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Murali
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            says:

            pay them a gold standard salary and throw the bums out if there is even a whiff of them engaging in petty corruption

            We pay them very well, it’s that second part that is consistently failed.Report

          • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Murali
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            says:

            Political process, as far as I can see, selects for

            1. People who can ‘work a room’; and

            2. Do that in pursuit of running effective fundraising and publicity campaigns.

            That does not include being a capable public speaker. Something Henry Fairlie and PJ O’Rourke noticed a generation ago – that American politicians are by and large wretched rhetoricians – remains true. You have exceptions (Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and, in certain settings, Edward Koch).

            I think it also selects for people who want to be politicians and are not all that capable at anything else. Numbnutzes dominate Congress and the state legislatures who then frustrate any capable men who land in executive positions. (Defenders of Gov. Corbett in Pennsylvania maintain the administration was done in by careerist Republicans in gatekeeper positions in the legislature). By and large, I think legislators are notably worse than executives in our system. I think if we had screens which inhibited long careers in politics and tended to produce a bias in political recruitment in favor of late middle aged people (or old people) who already had made their mark doing something else, we’d be better off. A career like McConnell’s or Trent Lott’s or Barney Frank’s simply should not be possible.

            So, a constitutional amendment and statutory revisions which would have the following provisions:

            1. No one can stand as a candidate for a supralocal office unless he’s reached the age of 39 (with exceptions for state legislatures in places with populations below a certain threshold, say 2 million)

            2. No one can stand for a local conciliar body (or a state legislature under a certain dispensation) unless they’ve reached the age indicated by a formula which has the local population as an argument.

            3. No one can stand for a local executive position unless they’ve reached an age indicated by a formula of the sort referenced above. You’d just use different formulas for seats on conciliar bodies than you would for specialized executives than you would for general executives like mayors.

            4. All positions chosen by competitive election (bar judgeships) are to be chosen for four year terms. Judgeships would be chosen (or subject to retention-in-office referenda) for four year terms (lay JPs) or terms a whole-number multiple of four years.

            5. All elected officials and all subject to retention-in-office referenda are subject to mandatory retirement at age 76.

            6. Bar judgships (and their confidential secretaries and law clerks), rotation-in-office shall be the order of the day; i.e. no one shall hold a given elective office or discretionary appointment for more than 10 years in any bloc of 12, nor stand for election when he shall be (by virtue of mandatory retirement or rotation requirements) be compelled to vacate office in mid-term or (regarding judges) compelled to vacate within 4 years of his election.

            7. If an individual from a tainted occupation wishes to run for a seat on a conciliar body, he must run with an understudy who is not of a tainted occupation. The understudy has to be listed on his petitions and stand with him at party caucuses and conventions. At such time as nomination processes are complete, the state board of elections (or local board) must then assess the whole body of candidates of a given political party for the conciliar body in question, as well as the whole body of nonpartisan candidates. If the share of those in tainted occupations in any body of candidates exceeds 20%, a drawing will have to be held to force the share down to 20% or below, replacing as many (but no more) nominees with their understudies as possible. The tainted occupations would be (1) lawyer and (2) public employee other than an elected official. It would also be the rule that one retains the taint for a period of time after one departs a status, a period equal to (say) 1/4 of the time you occupied the status. So, if you were admitted to the bar for 16 years, you’ll still stink for four years after you’ve turned in your license.

            8. Revise legal training. Eliminate the baccalaureate degree as a prerequisite for law school in favor of an arts-and-sciences certificate (heavy on Anglo-American history and philosophy) which can be completed in a calendar year and a business certificate which can be completed in six months. Have law schools offer a working lawyer’s degree of 50 credit hours, with a minority of schools offering a judge’s degree of 100 hours and a small selection offering a law professor’s degree of 150 hours. Limit judicial positions to lawyers with the judge’s degree. Have aspirant lawyers take the bar exam after finishing their 30 months of higher education and working in a law office for a few years.Report

            • Avatar Murali in reply to Art Deco
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              says:

              I can grok age requirements for public office, but I doubt term limits actually work. Term limits artificially reduce the supply of qualified and experienced personnel. Why would you want that?Report

              • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Murali
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                says:

                1. What’s ‘qualified’?

                2. What’s the marginal value of ‘experience’?

                The problem you get without rotation in office (and it doesn’t have to be strict term limits) is that seats in legislatures decay into property. The legislature grows more and more to be an insider scam (manifest most graphically in New York). The longer they’re there, the more they’re at home with various insiders (lobbyists, captured agencies, &c).Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Art Deco
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                says:

                1. Someone who knows how to run a company on a consistent and long term profitable basis seems like a good place to start.

                2. The problem I see is that I don’t think it is being in office which gets you cozy with lobbyists and other interest groups. It is getting into office which does that. If people are constantly trying to run for election they are going to need the money to do that from somewhere. The lobbyist is essentially a petty blackmailer: Do this or your source of funding dries up, do that or my client won’t donate to your campaign. What purchase does a lobbyist have on a politician’s soul (if such a thing exists) if the politician does not need the said lobbyist’s or client’s help with anything?Report

              • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Murali
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                says:

                Maybe. I’ve been involved with some street level politicking and known a sage or two. NPR did some interviews with Washington state legislators a while back. Also, The Public Interest has published a few pieces. I’m not extensively well-read in this area. I just know a few things. Academic political scientists do tend to be antagonistic to the idea of term limits, as do some nonprofessionals who cover politicians, like Ethan Rarick. The thing is, I suspect academic political scientists who are drawn to specialize in the study of legislatures have a different idea of what constitutes good performance than an ordinary person would. Just a suggestion.

                Elections to the state legislature are not elections to Congress. They’re not hugely expensive.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Art Deco
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                says:

                Elections to the state legislature are not elections to Congress. They’re not hugely expensive.

                Seems like they should be in years ending in 8.Report

              • Avatar Francis in reply to Art Deco
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                Legislating is an area where institutional expertise is important and will exist somewhere. If it’s not embodied in the legislators it will move to chief aides and to lobbyists. Also, building a coalition for a significant piece of legislation can take several years.

                So term limits are about tradeoffs, balancing the need for some turnover against the loss of expertise and the fragmentation of coalitions.

                Tainted occupations? Really? The practice of law is just another skill that many people find useful.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Francis
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                says:

                Last I checked, 70% of the U.S. Senate had law degrees, as opposed to 2.5% of those in more-or-less bourgeois occupations. At one time, some years back, there was a state legislature in which 1/3 of the members were schoolteachers. My home town had serial embarrassments with ‘economic development’ initiatives. Nearly every person slated for public office by the Democratic Party was either an attorney or in a state-dependent occupation (e.g. schoolteachers and social workers). They had one accountant on the council. The mayor was a lapsed social worker. The current mayor is a lawyer.

                Much of what legislatures do is to consider budgets and appropriations bills, a task for which legal training is not that important. Intricate understanding of tax laws is helpful, but you’re not going to get legislatures filled with tax lawyers (and accountants who specialize in these matters know a good deal as well). We might also benefit a great deal from radically simplified tax laws. The intricacy is the pathology.

                Legal training does not prepare one specifically for understanding public policy. It prepares one for understanding what the language of a statute or code (with elaboration in opinions) allows the other guy (i.e. some lawyer) to do to you. You can have staff counsel explain that to you (unless it’s your contention that the staff counsel will just lie to you to mess with your head).

                Legal training would be helpful to understand the implications of changes in the Civil Practice Law and Rules. In fact, hardly any non-lawyers have an opinion on that sort of thing. It would also be helpful in understanding the implications of changes in the Penal Law (about which people do care). You can identify other areas where this is so, but a number of them benefit from competing expertise or competing normative prescriptions. I have in my possession an audio interview of an academic who had been active in the campaign to institute covenant marriage laws in the South. Well, she said, one impediment they discovered in her home state was that every single member of the judiciary committee was an attorney and they thought about the proposed law in terms of the extra work they’d have to do if you unloaded no-fault divorce.

                I am recalling something an appellate division clerk told me about 25 years ago, contemplating a bit of text in the domestic relations law he found unfair: “the law tends to be heavily weighted towards attorneys…maybe because it’s written by attorneys”.Report

              • Avatar Francis in reply to Art Deco
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                says:

                “Legal training does not prepare one specifically for understanding public policy.”

                True enough. Constitutional issues come up pretty rarely. Someone holding a Masters in Public Policy is probably more qualified. But how many of those are there, anyway? And while specifically taint lawyers, as opposed to businessmen or dental hygienists? What experience do those individuals have with public policy?

                One thing that legal training does do for future legislators is teach you about the significant tedium involved in reading and understanding law. Being a lawyer and a legislator involve enormous hours of deadly dull work.

                Looking at the Senate data, it appears to me that the voters want lawyers in legislative office. Or, at least, the donors do. I understand that you have a particular dislike towards people with that particular qualification, but your point of view does not appear to be shared by the public at large.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Francis
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                says:

                And while specifically taint lawyers, as opposed to businessmen or dental hygienists? What experience do those individuals have with public policy?

                Because businessmen and dental hygienists do not compose 70% of the U.S. Senate and 100% of the superior and appellate court judges. Neither have businessmen or dental hygienists arrogated to themselves a franchise to impose their vision in public policy in defiance of public opinion or law. They’re not tainted, because they’re better human beings.Report

              • Avatar Francis in reply to Art Deco
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                says:

                I find it odd that the choosing of a profession affects one’s worth as a human being. I would have thought that it was the way one acted in the context of that profession that mattered.

                After all, for every attorney advocating for the rights of sodomites there was one on the other side.

                The idea that appellate justices can act in defiance of the law is certainly unusual. Not too many people seriously think that Marbury was wrongly decided. Even fewer think that the decision could meaningfully be reversed at this point. The principle of judicial review is too deeply woven into the fabric of the American legal system.

                And as to the power of the judiciary to reject public opinion, that’s the whole point of the bill of rights. Cases asserting the deprivation of due process rights only come up after the deprivation has occurred.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Francis
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                says:

                Also, building a coalition for a significant piece of legislation can take several years.

                And how much of that is due to legislators being consumed with their own gamesmanship? I’m trying to think of all the ‘significant legislation’ passed between 1974 and 2013 in New York. It’s mostly just wrangling over the budget (which has candy for various constituencies in it) and twee messaging items.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Murali
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                says:

                Colorado implemented term limits for all of its state government elected positions. Those had had plenty of time to get entrenched by the time I started working as a legislative budget analyst. “Steady-state” seems to be that every two years, 20-25 of the 100 members of the General Assembly are true newbies — never been a member of either chamber before. While I’m biased, my opinion is that the single most important thing the GA does each year is set the budget. Three groups have become more powerful wrt that task as a result of declining legislator experience.

                (1) The budget staffers. Much more of the available institutional memory resides with the staff, particularly the long-time staff, than used to be the case. (2) The executive branch, particularly the large, complex departments. Very few of the come-and-go short-term part-time legislators ever learn the big departments’ budgets. (3) Lobbyists. Same deal — they simply understand a whole lot more about the budget they’re trying to get changed than the members.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Michael Cain
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                says:

                I see your point, but that takes a given public bureaucracy as a given and assumes the legislators will be concerned with granular details of how it is funded. That would properly be the case with the state police. For some other activities of state government, the existence of the agency should be on the table, or the parameters of a program which drive the spending should be on the table.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Murali
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            says:

            Based on my time with the state legislature staff, the best of them seem to be in city manager (not mayor) positions, or at the top of the non-appointive positions in state executive-branch departments. The quality isn’t uniform, and it’s hard to be a good executive when there are politicians joggling your elbow all the time, but those are generally people who understand what their organization does, how it’s put together, the kind of peculiar budget constraints that apply, etc.

            Possibly worth noting that the vast majority of politicians in the US — people who stand for election, not appointees — are part-timers.Report

            • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Michael Cain
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              says:

              City managers are supposed to be drawn from a professional corps and hired from out of area (not always so). A great deal of local government is technical practical, so that makes some sense in those settings.

              Most political office holders are an municipal and county councils. Of course they serve part time.Report

          • Avatar Damon in reply to Murali
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            says:

            In the board rooms not the smoke filled rooms of politicians.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Oscar Gordon
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      says:

      from Ross Perot and Jesse Jackson, to Steve Forbes and Herman Cain, to this year’s crop of Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and, of course, Donald J. Trump. This further widening of our democracy — our increased openness to being led by anyone; indeed, our accelerating preference for outsiders — is now almost complete.

      He conflates people who were vigorous competitors who won a major party nomination (W. Willkie), one a large bloc of votes in a general election (Perot), or won many delegates and votes in a nomination donneybrook (Jackson, Forbes, Trump) with candidates who set up a committee and then sank with scarcely a trace (Carson, Fiorina) or withdrew ‘ere any competition (Cain). He compares a man who built a large business from scratch (Perot), to an heir who proved a capable executor of his own projects (Trump), to a capable marketer (Cain), to corporation executives who had successes and failures (Fiorina) or worked in monopolies (Willkie), to and heir who had good years and bad in the family business (Forbes), to a skilled professional who’d never had many people working under him (Carson), to a mouth who subsisted on grants and donations (Jackson).Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Oscar Gordon
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      says:

      Once, candidates built a career through experience in elected or Cabinet positions or as military commanders; they were effectively selected by peer review.

      Consider the gigantic resume of Abraham Lincoln: 8 years as a state legislator, 2 years in the House.

      Sully wrote this? Wotta maroon. Let’s see: 5 Sarah Palin references, but nothing about Trig. I guess he’s taking some of his meds.Report

  2. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    says:

    This paragraph where Sullivan quotes Plato-

    Patriarchy is also dismantled: “We almost forgot to mention the extent of the law of equality and of freedom in the relations of women with men and men with women.” Family hierarchies are inverted: “A father habituates himself to be like his child and fear his sons, and a son habituates himself to be like his father and to have no shame before or fear of his parents.” In classrooms, “as the teacher … is frightened of the pupils and fawns on them, so the students make light of their teachers.” Animals are regarded as equal to humans; the rich mingle freely with the poor in the streets and try to blend in. The foreigner is equal to the citizen.

    Is Sullivan-esque in its hysteria and drama.
    Fathers fearing their sons, teachers afraid of pupils, Andrew, really? Is this a thing, really?

    And “Animals are regarded as equal to humans”, why not just write “dogs and cats living together” and at least get a laugh?

    Like Sullivan I am terrified of Trump’s appeal, but for Sullivan to dismiss Sander’s critique with “the past few presidential elections have demonstrated that, in fact, money from the ultrarich has been mostly a dud” is astounding. Obama could not have succeeded without the help and backing of the very same ultrarich who also staff his Cabinet.

    His proposal, that our democracy is in danger from populism, while the gilded age elite are merely passive bystanders is a case of the palace courtier being more afraid of the rabble than the court executioner.Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    I am not fully convinced. Trump is bad but there is too much fever dream here. You can talk about meritocracy all you want and taking the best of the best but at some point meritocracy just becomes another way to sustain privilege. Does Harvard beget Harvard because of inherited talent or because wealth wants to sustain wealth?

    My girlfriend spent her entire education and work career at top schools and top employers. She does not quite get my educational and work history because it is so alien to her. She asks why I picked my schools and doesn’t seem grasp that not everyone can be top 5.

    I think this is a problem. We need to have more than smooth ride and struggle.Report

  4. Avatar Richard Hershberger
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    says:

    My standard Andrew Sullivan story:

    I first became aware of Sullivan about fifteen years ago.. Some conservative commentator had claimed that the mainstream media was more likely to identify a conservative politician as “conservative” than a liberal politician as “liberal,” and this proved the media’s liberal bias. All the usual suspects chimed in with agreement. Then Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist trained in the analysis of large language corpora, tested the initial assertion and showed that it was factually incorrect. This was met with the reaction you would expect, including claims that his methodology was flawed. This was followed by a second round, where he showed that it wasn’t. The final response was for the usual suspects to declare that the original claim didn’t mean anything–which was true enough–and to let the matter drop after some muttered criticisms of Nunberg for wasting everyone’s time on such a ridiculous argument. You can thank Nunberg that you haven’t been hearing this claim for the past fifteen years.

    So what was Sullivan’s contribution to the national discourse? It came about midway through the brouhaha:

    “I ignored Geoffrey Nunberg’s piece in the American Prospect in April, debunking the notion of liberal media bias by numbers, because it so flew in the face of what I knew that I figured something had to be wrong. (And I was too lazy to do all the enormously laborious number-crunching to refute it. So sue me.)”

    I don’t read Sullivan, even when he has a piece making the rounds like this one. Is this ad hominem? Damn straight it is. Life is short. Were I to read him, I would have to treat it like writing a response to a legal brief. I would have to chase down every reference to confirm its content and context, because I have no confidence in his writing in intelligent good faith. I don’t find him amusing enough to do this for recreation, and no one has offered to pay me for the work.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Richard Hershberger
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      says:

      Man, if I were to make a claim, it would be something more like the following:

      When a Republican Politician is involved in scandal, his party affiliation is more likely to be mentioned in the headline or the first paragraph.

      When a Democratic Politician is involved in scandal, his party affiliation is more likely to be not mentioned in the headline or first paragraph but, if it is mentioned at all, it’s mentioned in the last paragraphs of the story.

      (I suppose I could also make claims like when people affiliated with conservative politics are involved with violence, this is more likely to be pointed out in the headline or the first paragraph of the story… and when people affiliated with liberal politics are involved with violence, the headlines and first paragraph of the story are more likely to be written in the passive voice. “Violence erupts at event” or that sort of thing.)Report

    • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Richard Hershberger
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      says:

      Then Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist trained in the analysis of large language corpora, tested the initial assertion and showed that it was factually incorrect.

      Sorry, not buying. Too many years listening to NPR. And why was it published in The American Prospect? The American Prospect dispensed with it’s wonk journal format 17 years ago. You only publish in that forum if you want to provide talking points for the faithful.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Richard Hershberger
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      says:

      I don’t care for Dr. Sullivan or his writings, but he was editor of The New Republic. He was not at the time a conventional Democrat, but he supervised them and socialized with them. Fred Barnes had a long history as a conventional newspaper reporter before he took up opinion journalism. It’s been a pet peeve of his for a generation that reporters tend to divide the world into ‘ultraconservatives’ and ‘activists’. I’d check this fellow Nuneburg’s work very carefully.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Richard Hershberger
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      says:

      The fellow you reference is supposedly the author of Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show. I can kind of see why Sullivan and others would regard his work with somewhat more reserve and skepticism than that of Prof. X at the University of Iowa.Report

      • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to Art Deco
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        says:

        The fellow you reference is supposedly the author of Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show.

        What a curious statement! Why do you hint that he is not actually the author?

        I can kind of see why Sullivan and others would regard his work with somewhat more reserve and skepticism than that of Prof. X at the University of Iowa.

        Yes, and that would be a really good point, had Sullivan’s reaction therefore been to closely examine Nunberg’s analsys.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Richard Hershberger
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      says:

      I do not have access to the relevant databases anymore, but I cannot help but notice that the Nunberg article you make reference to does not show up in GoogleScholar. Quite a mess of his academic and professional publications do, but not one from which the article you cite might be derived.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to Art Deco
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        says:

        It took me 3 seconds on Google to find the article and then he links to the data table (which expired but is archived).

        Also, if Sullivan could see into the future and know that Nunberg would write that book 4 years later, maybe he should have used some of that power to prevent him from calling opponents of the Iraq War traitors.Report

        • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Mo
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          says:

          That’s not what I was looking for (and that doesn’t show up on GoogleScholar). I was looking for the academic paper from which that article in The American Prospect was derived. As far as I can tell, none was ever published.

          Also, look at the date on the article: 2002. The American Prospect was founded in 1990 as a liberal answer to The Public Interest. The Public Interest published articles which were derivatives of academic papers or could have been published as academic papers (while omitting the references, by and large). Around about 1999, the editors of The American Prospect got bored with that and reconstituted themselves as an opinion magazine occupying the space in between The New Republic and The Nation. I can imagine him wanting a wider audience for his paper (and I think that sort of recycling is still generally permitted; a magazine article is not going to read like an academic paper). I think I’d have aimed higher than The American Prospect, though, or perhaps aimed for something like the Columbia Journalism Review. The higher stratum liberal outlets favor actual or notional book reviews, and this cannot be structured that way. Maybe he couldn’t get The Atlantic or Harper’s or Slate to publish it.Report

        • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Mo
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          says:

          if Sullivan could see into the future and know that Nunberg would write that book 4 years later

          I’m not suggesting he could. I’m suggesting he may have been a known quantity. It’s possible he was passably respectable in 2002 and decided to take up polemics later. I recall being instructed by Paul Krugman’s magazine pieces as late as 1998. It wasn’t until about three years later he went off the rails.Report

  5. Avatar notme
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    says:

    Blah, blah, blah, another Trump hit piece.Report

  6. Avatar qu
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    says:

    it expanded the notion of who might be qualified for public office

    Between January 1989 and January 2021, there will have been three family names in 32 years of presidenting. The Hapsburgs had a more expansive notion of who should be head of state.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco in reply to qu
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      says:

      I find people’s Hillary-the-Shoo-In fantasy perplexing.

      That aside, you’ve had 40-odd presidential candidates of consequence since 1970. Of these, one’s a political spouse and five others were scions when they ran. Re two of these scions (George Bush pere and Mitt Romney), their fathers had never run for office outside of one state, a state in which the sons did live in as adults (and NB, George Romney departed public life 29 years before his son was elected Governor of Massachusetts and Prescott Bush had left public office 18 years before his son was sworn in as vp). I’d say we’re doing better than the Hapsburgs.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Art Deco
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        says:

        Hillary has gone from more likely than not to shoe in as real Donald Trump has led his band of marauders across the poltical landscape.

        It’s true that we don’t have any inbred hemophiliac morons yet, but the century is young.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to qu
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      says:

      Only because “my brother, my cousin, my nephew, or my great-nephew” doesn’t sound like it’s all the same person.Report

  7. Avatar Doctor Jay
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    says:

    I swear to Dog, I read this:

    Is he testing democracy’s singular weakness — its susceptibility to the demagogue — by blasting through the firewalls we once had in place to prevent such a person from seizing power? Or am I overreacting?

    and thought to myself, “C’mon Andrew, just vote for Hillary already. I know you don’t want to, but you can do it!”

    Also, I thought “Yes, you are”

    Like @richard-hershberger I do not have much patience or interest in reading Andrew “I published The Bell Curve” SullivanReport

  8. Avatar j r
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    says:

    I was pretty sure that this article was a joke and then I read this line and became convinced:

    To call this fascism doesn’t do justice to fascism. Fascism had, in some measure, an ideology and occasional coherence that Trump utterly lacks.

    Sullivan is trolling with paraphrased Lebowski quotes.

    This thing starts with Plato’s claim that “tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy.” Sounds like an interesting thesis, except that it’s wrong. Where was the democracy that gave birth to Stalin or North Korea. I guess you could call Weimar Germany or pre-Mussolini Italy democracies, but not particularly long-established ones. And what about the long and established tradition of democracies that gave birth to all manner of thirld-word tyrants?

    I know Trump scares some people, but the idea that he could be a tyrant is laughable. He’s a carnival barker not the vanguard of a totalitarian political movement.Report

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