Priorities: Fighting Bigotry Over Babbittry

local sceneCommon men and women can learn from the examples of great men and women. In this way, one can learn how to prioritize between concurrent challenges, applying lessons from a prior and intense conflict even to present but lesser conflicts. Some threats are worse than others, and so our it’s reasonable that one places more effort there.

It makes sense to me that the most intense focus should be on the most intense challenges, and that those challenges are national ones first, local ones embodying national ones second, and purely local ones third.

The national challenges of Trumpism (viz., authoritarianism, bigotry, nativism, mendacity, conflicts of interest, ignorance, and subservience and dependency on Putin’s dictatorship) are a greater threat to communities than purely local buffoonery and grandiosity.

In this way, one would, so to speak, prioritize the fight against bigotry over babbittry. (One sees well, to be sure, that years of local babbittry erode the standards of a community, making it more susceptible of national illnesses. Only scorn is owed to those who wasted a generation glad-handing through town.)

Three confident assumptions undergird my thinking —

First, Trumpism should go, consigned to a political outer darkness, and the ruin of that way will be a thorough good. The next generation will ask: What did you do to oppose Trump? Those who supported him will then be silent; those who were silent will then be ashamed. Those who openly defended centuries of liberty and constitutionalism on this continent, however small their own efforts, will enjoy settled consciences and the thanks of a free people.

Second, there will still be time, during this national conflict, to combat local embodiments of the national challenges that face us. There are, for example, lumpen nativists, local show-us-your-papers men,  who deserve more criticism than they’ve yet received. That’s a fight worthy fighting, and one happily joined.

Third, most of those responsible for our local challenges have no future in any event — they were irreversibly in decline in Whitewater even before Trump came to power. If the pharaohs, with all their wealth poured into the pyramids, could not thereby prevent the decline of their way of life, then one can be sure that today’s local grandiosity and boosterism will not do the trick.

Fight and prevail through collective, nationwide efforts in the greater challenge, and the local challenge will be even more easily won.

Committee to Investigate Russia: ‘This is No Movie Script’

In the video above, Morgan Freeman reminds Americans that Russian interference in our electoral process is ‘no movie script’; Vladimir Putin is a dictator, murderer, and inveterate enemy of America and our democratic traditions.

The newly-formed Committee to Investigate Russia (https://investigaterussia.org) made its début yesterday. The CIR is a nonpartisan group – with both conservative, liberal, and libertarian members:

Nearly a year after Russia successfully interfered in the 2016 election, one thing remains abundantly clear: America can never let its guard down when it comes to the Russian threat to our democratic process. While we still don’t have definitive answers on much of what elapsed during the lead-up to the election — or, frankly, have a plan for what we can do to prevent this sort of thing going forward — what we do have is an issue that individuals on both sides of the aisle are desperate to get to the bottom of. It’s against this backdrop that the nonprofit, nonpartisan Committee to Investigate Russiawas launched on Sept. 19.

Via Committee to Investigate Russia.

Truths About Trump

For supporters and those in thrall:

For those of us who are opponents and of the resistance:

Opponents can first hold fast against Trump, and then at suitable moments push against him forcefully, compelling his retreat. Those who band together as powerful counter-parties can overwhelm Trump and his ilk.

‘Fortunate’

Freedom of Speech, Norman Rockwell, 1943, oil on canvas, Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

local scene

Norman Rockwell wasn’t the finest painter of the twentieth century (to express the matter gently), but at least when he created a painting capturing the spirit of free speech as one of Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, he understood speech as a right, not a privilege, lucky break, or favor from government.

So it is with government, generally – government is nothing more than an instrument to effect the wishes of citizens possessed of individual rights. The idea of an organic state, existing apart from a limited delegation of popular sovereignty, is an autocratic concept unsuited to a free people.

How odd, then, to read that, in a small town, one should feel ‘fortunate’ that public officials will describe their plans to the people from whom their powers are, in fact, derived for limited times and limited purposes under law.

There is nothing a public official gives to the public that he does not already owe. There is nothing public, having been owed, that is wonderful. On the contrary, these are obligations one should expect to be fulfilled. Nature holds wonders; men and women, fundamentally, have rights as individuals and obligations as officials. Government is not a wonder.

In any event, a culture that fawns over ordinary presentations does public officials no favors. Cosseted men and women seldom develop fully, leaving themselves and their communities unprepared for serious challenges.

The United States Senate Joint Resolution Condemning White Nationalists, Neo Nazis, KKK, and Other Hate Groups

Yesterday, the United States Senate unanimously approved a resolution condemning white nationalists, neo-Nazis, KKK,  and other hate groups. It was the right decision, of course, and the resolution now goes to the House, and to the president if it passes both chambers. It’s more than regrettable – it’s a disgrace, truly – that this president could not have spoken half so well on his own.

The text of the resolution and a .pdf version appear below:

S. J. RES. 49


JOINT RESOLUTION

Condemning the violence and domestic terrorist attack that took place during events between August 11 and August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, recognizing the first responders who lost their lives while monitoring the events, offering deepest condolences to the families and friends of those individuals who were killed and deepest sympathies and support to those individuals who were injured by the violence, expressing support for the Charlottesville community, rejecting White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups, and urging the President and the President’s Cabinet to use all available resources to address the threats posed by those groups.

Whereas, on the night of Friday, August 11, 2017, a day before a White nationalist demonstration was scheduled to occur in Charlottesville, Virginia, hundreds of torch-bearing White nationalists, White supremacists, Klansmen, and neo-Nazis chanted racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant slogans and violently engaged with counter-demonstrators on and around the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville;

Whereas, on Saturday, August 12, 2017, ahead of the scheduled start time of the planned march, protestors and counter-demonstrators gathered at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville;

Whereas the extremist demonstration turned violent, culminating in the death of peaceful counter-demonstrator Heather Heyer and injuries to 19 other individuals after a neo-Nazi sympathizer allegedly drove a vehicle into a crowd, an act that resulted in a charge of second degree murder, 3 counts of malicious wounding, and 1 count of hit and run;

Whereas 2 Virginia State Police officers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, died in a helicopter crash as they patrolled the events occurring below them;

Whereas the Charlottesville community is engaged in a healing process following this horrific and violent display of bigotry; and

Whereas White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups reportedly are organizing similar events in other cities in the United States and communities everywhere are concerned about the growing and open display of hate and violence being perpetrated by those groups: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress—

(1) condemns the racist violence and domestic terrorist attack that took place between August 11 and August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia;

(2) recognizes—

(A) Heather Heyer, who was killed, and 19 other individuals who were injured in the reported domestic terrorist attack; and

(B) several other individuals who were injured in separate attacks while standing up to hate and intolerance;

(3) recognizes the public service and heroism of Virginia State Police officers Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, who lost their lives while responding to the events from the air;

(4) offers—

(A) condolences to the families and friends of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, and Trooper Pilot Berke M.M. Bates; and

(B) sympathy and support to those individuals who are recovering from injuries sustained during the attacks;

(5) expresses support for the Charlottesville community as the community heals following this demonstration of violent bigotry;

(6) rejects White nationalism, White supremacy, and neo-Nazism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States; and

(7) urges—

(A) the President and his administration to—

(i) speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and White supremacy; and

(ii) use all resources available to the President and the President’s Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States; and

(B) the Attorney General to work with—

(i) the Secretary of Homeland Security to investigate thoroughly all acts of violence, intimidation, and domestic terrorism by White supremacists, White nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and associated groups in order to determine if any criminal laws have been violated and to prevent those groups from fomenting and facilitating additional violence; and

(ii) the heads of other Federal agencies to improve the reporting of hate crimes and to emphasize the importance of the collection, and the reporting to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, of hate crime data by State and local agencies.

Passed the Senate September 11, 2017.

Download (PDF, 134KB)

The Premature Question

Over at the Daily Beast, Joy Reid asks What’s Going to Happen When the Trumpists Realize the America They Yearn for Is Gone?

It’s an interesting question, perhaps, but more importantly it’s a premature one. We’ve a long road ahead before Trumpism is finished, and you’ll excuse me if the time for pondering life after our present conflict is nowhere near. (Between now and then, the circumstances that planning will take into account will, no doubt, be changed, anyway.)

Concern over how that time will look matters far less than working for its arrival, however near or far that arrival may be.

For now, there’s no reason to relent or pause, no time to ponder the time after this time. We’ll have that occasion when success draws nearer.

Until then, we’ve an obligation to diligence, each day beginning again with the distance and detachment so useful for a long & demanding conflict.

A Telling Comparison

local scenePeople in small towns, nearly everywhere in this country, have access to national programming & news on television and online. As easily as one could subscribe online to something like the Janesville Gazette, one could subscribe to the Chicago Tribune or Washington Post.

Imagine, then, a choice between editorials in the Gazette and the Post on the state of labor in America. Just a few days ago, both papers published on this national topic: the Gazette in a Sunday editorial, the Post in a guest article from Lawrence Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury, and a longtime academic (for president, current professor, of Harvard).

The Gazette offers Economy, not unions, boosts labor, a 500-word editorial that contends that union membership has declined in the Janesville area, yet that the paper’s editorial board “cannot claim that the economy is worse off for membership declines. Indeed, poverty rates statewide have fallen to the lowest level in years, while unemployment rates are also near record lows. The labor market now favors skilled workers employers are competing for and struggling to find.”

I hold no brief for unions, although I think that they should be a robust choice available to workers, at any worksite, should they choose. The problems with the Gazette‘s use of these simple measures are obvious. Poverty is a measure of economic sickness, but its decline is no assurance of overall health. (Cancer rates might be low, for example, but a population still beset by anemia, high-blood pressure, alcoholism, for example.) The absence of the severe does not assure the presence of temperate. A low unemployment rate still begs the question of overall productivity and employee gains. Finally, a labor market that favors skilled workers (under the Gazette‘s implication that that’s Janesville) still doesn’t answer how many workers are skilled, how many are non-skilled, and how both groups are faring.

Look, instead, at the analysis that Summers offers in the Post. (Summers isn’t a libertarian, to be sure, but that’s not significant. What’s significant is how Summers presents a strong argument, even if one disagrees.) Here’s Summers on the state of labor, in It’s time to balance the power between workers and employers:

….Surely related to middle-class anxiety is the slow growth of wages even in the ninth year of economic recovery. The Phillips curve — which postulates that tighter labor markets lead to an acceleration of wage growth — appears to have broken down. Unemployment is at historically low levels, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that average hourly earnings last month rose by all of 3 cents — little more than a 0.1 percent bump. For the past year, they rose by only 2.5 percent. In contrast, profits of the S&P 500 are rising at a 16 percent annual rate.

What is going on? Economists don’t have complete answers. In part, there are inevitable year-to-year fluctuations (profits have declined in several recent years). And in part, BLS data reflects wages earned in the United States, even though a bit less than half of profits are earned abroad and have become more valuable as the dollar has declined relative to other currencies. And finally, wages have not risen because a strengthening labor market has drawn more workers into the labor force.

But I suspect the most important factor is that employers have gained bargaining power over wages while workers have lost it. Technology has given some employers — depending on the type of work involved — more scope for replacing American workers with foreign workers (think outsourcing) or with automation (think boarding-pass kiosks at airports) or by drawing on the gig economy (think Uber drivers). So their leverage to hold down wages has increased.

On the other hand, other factors have decreased the leverage of workers. For a variety of reasons, including reduced availability of mortgage credit and the loss of equity in existing homes, it is harder than it used to be to move to opportunity. Diminished savings in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis means many families cannot afford even a brief interruption in work. Closely related is the observation that workers as consumers appear more likely than years ago to have to purchase from monopolies — such as a consolidated airline sector or local health-care providers — rather than from firms engaged in fierce price competition. That means their paychecks do not go as far….

These two analyses aren’t the same in depth: the local editorial misses key points, either through ignorance or sophistry, that Summers easily covers in his succinct, general-readership essay.

Those reading Summers – even if in disagreement, and perhaps especially if so – will gain something from his observations. Those reading the Gazette will find only shallow contentions.

In a small town, one could read either. In a school district, one could teach either. At university, one could research either.

Why settle for less, why teach a new generation to accept less, when one could engage and think at a competitive national level, just as easily as any other person in America? Summers and others are as accessible to us as the Gazette, and offer so much more.

Anything less is short-changing onself and one’s community.

The Existential (Imagined and Real)

It was Michael Anton (writing as Publius Decius Mus) who exactly one year ago famously declared that 2016 was “The Flight 93 Election,” an existential fight for survival for state-loving conservatives:

2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.

Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.

To ordinary conservative ears, this sounds histrionic. The stakes can’t be that high because they are never that high—except perhaps in the pages of Gibbon. Conservative intellectuals will insist that there has been no “end of history” and that all human outcomes are still possible. They will even—as Charles Kesler does—admit that America is in “crisis.” But how great is the crisis? Can things really be so bad if eight years of Obama can be followed by eight more of Hillary, and yet Constitutionalist conservatives can still reasonably hope for a restoration of our cherished ideals? Cruz in 2024!….

The Flight 93 Election, Claremont Institute, http://www.claremont.org/crb/basicpage/the-flight-93-election/

Anton now serves in the Trump Administration (“Deputy Assistant to the President for Strategic Communications”), so he may content himself with avoiding a figurative plane crash at the price of electing a man who received three million fewer votes than the leading candidate.

Anton saw an existential threat, with conservatism on the brink, yet he should have stopped at the observation that others might see his claims as histrionic: they were and are exactly that. Had Clinton won, conservatism would have gone on well enough, perhaps even a bit better, in a politics of sometime gridlock and sometime compromise between a Democratic executive and a Republican legislature. America would have seen a world of conventional politics, not of existential threat to either conservatives or liberals. For better or worse, Clinton (and Ryan and McConnell) would have held office in times mostly of business as usual, not of extreme dangers.

Contra Anton, whose false claims of existential threats look truly histrionic a year later, it’s Trump’s election that now brings America to an existential crisis: Trump daily manifests authoritarianism, bigotry, xenophobia, ignorance, subservience to a Russian dictator, and serial conflicts of interest and self-dealing.

Those who opposed Trump, had we seen Trump defeated, would have been no dire threat to anyone who supported him. Now in power, Trump and his remaining cultish operatives are, however, manifestly a threat to American liberty, to centuries of constitutional and political development on this continent.

Anton had it exactly backwards: it’s Trump’s rise to power that represents an existential threat to our ordered and civilized way of life. We are now in an existential struggle, one that Trump has forced upon us.

This struggle is fought daily in the vast space between two great oceans, gripping over three hundred million within that territory, and billions beyond for whom the outcome matters immensely.

While the field of conflict is continental, it is not – indeed cannot be – national everywhere and yet local nowhere. Much of the decaying matter from which Trumpism springs (a love of authority, entitlement, grandiosity, mediocrity, conflicts of interest) exist in even the most beautiful small towns. It’s a candid admission that many of us – and here I count myself – have not done enough to challenge these local vices that have engendered a national sin.

No doubt we had excuses for our indolence even as we saw the local fuel that now feeds this national fire, reassuring ourselves that those of that ilk were doddering & bumbling, irritating & ignorant, yet mostly harmless.

We were unwise – foolishly rationalizing our neglect as generosity. We’ve now local and national hazards before us, with neither setting able to compensate for the challenge of the other. One would think, as was rightly said during another national conflict, that ‘one war at a time is enough.’ We’ve not that compensation; we’ve both problems now, both of our own neglect.

Multitudes will see loss and suffering before all this is over. Innocent people ruined at the hands of a bigoted, fanatical nationalism.

There is, however, this advantage: those of us in opposition and resistance are holding our own even now, and we have not yet given our best. Principle and perseverance will favor us.

However late to having come to see it, this threat is unmistakable now.

For Your Consideration, Dr. Jonas Salk

local scene Each year, newcomers arrive in Whitewater to take positions of one kind or another. Two weeks ago, in Welcome to Whitewater, I posed this question to new residents: “If Whitewater were perfect – that is, complete and lacking nothing – would anyone have needed you?”

Beyond that question, with its interpretation and answer left to others, I’ll offer no personal checklist, no set of rules for “how people talk around here,” no indulgent reminiscences, no cautionary words or sly advice.

Instead, I’ll offer the example of a great man, who remained to the last an industrious and humble man. Dr. Jonas Salk introduced his polio vaccine in 1955, saving the lives and health of people around the world. He worked until his death in 1995, his last project an attempt to develop a vaccine for HIV, a goal that others are yet pursuing even today.

Around the same time as the Salk’s vaccine was introduced (and after trials that assured him it would work), Salk wrote a letter offering an internship in his laboratory. The letter is a model of simplicity and humility. Salk writes kindly and directly, making no reference to his own accomplishments either in the text or below his signature.

His work was its own reward, requiring not the slightest ornamentation.

For your consideration, Dr. Jonas Salk —

Sec. of State Tillerson Distances America from Trump

I’m no fan of Rex Tillerson, an American Secretary of State who is a recipient — from dictator Vladimir Putin — of the Russian Order of Friendship,  but even Tillerson had the sense to disclaim the stain that Trump has spread over this country.

In the clip below, on Fox News, Tillerson makes clear that Trump speaks not for our people but only himself when he defends bigotry. That’s true, of course – we are a better people than Trump is a man. It’s not even close – he’s markedly below the ethical and moral standards of America’s just and worthy people.

(How long Tillerson, such as even he is, will last in this administration one can’t say.)

H/t to Kyle Griffin, a producer at MSNBC, who remarks that the clip is “Must-watch. Wallace asks Tillerson if Trump speaks for American values: “The President speaks for himself.” (Note Wallace’s reaction.)”

Don’t Be a Sucker

In 1943, in the middle of the Second World War, the United States Government, fighting on both sides of the world, commissioned a short film about fascism entitled Don’t Be a Sucker. The film describes the fight in which America was embroiled in the style and vernacular of that time; it’s even more compelling to me for its simple presentation.

Americans’ lives were not then without deep contradictions, but the plain, direct defense of American liberty & equality that the film advances is morally superior to anything Trump or his ilk have never said, even these decades later. Indeed, that 1943 defense is a worthy reply to the bigotry Trump’s vanguard (Bannon, Miller, Gorka, Anton) daily foments.

Via Why an Anti-Fascist Short Film Is Going Viral @ The Atlantic.

Tracking Putin’s Propaganda on Twitter

Over at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, they’ve a Dashboard for Tracking Russian Propaganda on Twitter.

It’s called Hamilton 68, after No. 68 of the Federalist Papers, in which Hamilton (writing pseudonymously as Publius) considers the danger of foreign interference in American elections (“These most deadly adversaries of republican government, might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the [353] chief magistracy of the union?”).

The Dashboard shows for Putin’s propaganda the top themes, top tweets of the last 24 hours, top hashtags, trending hashtags, trending topics, leading topics, top domains, trending domains, top URLs, trending URLs, distribution of tweets by hour, daily tweet counts, and distribution of tweets by day of the week.

The data are from the “activity from 600 monitored Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence operations.”

‘What Putin’s team is probably telling him about Trump’

Michael Morell, former deputy director of the CIA from 2010 to 2013 and twice acting director, and Samantha Vinograd of the National Security Council staff from 2009 to 2013, speculate from experience on What Putin’s team is probably telling him about Trump:

This is a speculative account of a memo that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s national security team would likely send him as he prepares to meet with President Trump for the first time this week. It is not a reflection of how we see the issues; it is a reflection of how we think Putin’s closest aides see the issues.

Mr. President, when you meet with President Trump at the Group of 20 meeting this week in Hamburg, you will do so at a historic time. Russia is in its strongest position since the end of the Cold War; the United States, our great adversary, is the weakest it has been. We are on the road to achieving our fundamental national security objectives — for Russia to retake its place as a great power and to have a sphere of influence in the countries on our periphery.

This did not happen by chance; it happened because we took action. We undertook the most successful covert political influence campaign since World War II. We kept our nemesis Hillary Clinton out of the White House, and we installed a president who is deepening existing schisms in his country while creating new ones at home and abroad. This is the first time in history that the United States has been attacked by another country and not come together as a nation; instead, our actions have caused it to come apart. This is a great victory for us.

Needless to say, I’m not able to speculate reasonably on what Putin’s advisors are telling the Russian dictator, but any guidance that tells him that he’s won a great victory over America seems right to me.

Trump is a huge gift to Russian power, nearly in proportion to his ignorance, bigotry, nativism, mendacity, authoritarian tendencies, and preference for foreign autocrats.

Saying all this about Trump is simply stating the obvious about him, but it’s worth remembering that a core of American fellow travelers and fifth-columnists, having more sympathy for Putinism than America values, made Putin’s meddling and Trump’s excreable rise possible. (See, Useful Idiots: Trump is getting played by the Russians – but so is the rest of the GOP, where John Stoehr applies the phrase, dubiously attributed to Lenin, to contemporary politics.)

There are, in a rough, descending order of culpability for Putin’s interference in our politics, the following: (1) those who have collaborated with Russians or other third parties to undermine American liberty & sovereignty, (2) those sympathetic to Putinism (including white nationalists, anti-Muslim bigots, and theologically-confused & intellectually-stunted Americans who ludicrously think that Putin’s a moral exemplar), (3) those who wilfully refuse to see the damage Putin has done, (4) those who for years have maintained the low standards that have allowed Putin’s lies to flourish (including every glad-handing Babbitt in every town in America), and (5) those of us who should have seen more clearly, and dealt with the rest more assertively & decisively, all these years gone by.

Reading and Reviewing

There are two books I’m eager to review here at FW: Katherine Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker (2016) and Amy Goldstein’s Janesville: An American Story (4.18.17).  Like many others, I’ve been awaiting Goldstein’s book for some time, knowing that significant works take time.

For both books, I’ll proceed with a chapter-by-chapter assessment. I’ve the luxury of taking my time, for two principal reasons: first, blogging allows a self-chosen pace; second and more significantly, both books are worthy of detailed reviews.

There is a third reason, too, and particular to Whitewater:  this city’s local policymakers have a position so weak that their particular maneuverings are of little value. For them, unfortunately, it’s the fate of a grinding attrition for the near future. These political few, and those who have been part of this small group over the last generation, will have little part in whatever successful short-term events Whitewater sees.

A sensible, productive person would stay as far away as possible.  This class is, with a few exceptions, composed of individually capable people who’ve collectively thrown away capability. See, Whitewater’s Major Public Institutions Produce a Net Loss (And Why It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way). A political critique of Whitewater is now less a matter of advocacy as it is a recollection and narration of cumulative political errors.

The better approach for the city is a true private charity and a true private industry, unconnected to political policy. See, An Oasis Strategy.

Of Whitewater’s local politics, what once seemed to me primarily a matter of advocacy grew to seem more like a diagnosis, and now seems like epidemiology.

There’s a history to be written about all of this, incorporating particular projects into a bigger work, but for now it’s a greater pleasure to consider what others have written.

I’ll start Wednesday, and continue chapter by chapter, taking time with it all.

‘The Closest Thing We Have to State TV’

In the clip above, Seth Meyers considers the relationship between Fox News and the Trump Administration, concluding that Fox News is ‘the closest thing we have to state TV,’ represents ‘sycophantic coverage,’ and that ‘instead of a Bible, Trump should have been sworn in on a TV Guide.’ (H/t to Raw Story for the pointer.)

Small towns across America are familiar with publications that are – in support and in effect – quasi-government publications. In the Whitewater area, it’s nearly impossible to imagine the Daily Union or Banner as offering anything other than sycophantic coverage. It’s fair to qualify this as nearly impossible, as ever so rarely one of these publications will stray from an insider’s line, for reasons of personal pique if not actual substance.

We’ve had years of coverage like this, weakening the quality of our politics and thinking, so much so that those in authority sometimes (but not always) seem like parodies of ill-preparation and weak analysis. Low quality of this kind is That Which Paved the Way, enabling a federal government led by the very worst among us.

Under the Gazette‘s Reasoning, Rosa Parks Should Have Stayed at the Back of the Bus

Over at the Gazette, there’s an editorial about whether a local school superintendent should have sent a message about immigration to residents without consulting his school board. See, Our Views: Superintendent sends the wrong message.

I’ll set aside the issue of immigration, and address the deeper issue of the Gazette‘s reasoning on obedience to the law. Here’s what the publication contends:

We’re certainly willing to concede problems with current immigration law, but we cannot support breaking laws we don’t like. That’s not how our democracy works.

Under this view, the law – indeed any law passed with a majority in its community – must be obeyed. There’s no room for civil disobedience here, so Parks should have stayed at the back of the bus, and King should not have marched in communities where a majority insisted against marches.

The Gazette may truly believe this, of course: that one must live with majoritarian rule, no matter how unjust, with no measures of civil disobedience. There’s something selfish, however, about men who (presumably) would claim a right of their forefathers to use military means to secure independence from a British majority who would now deny to living residents on this continent the right even to use the peaceful measures of civil disobedience.

It’s worth observing that the editorialist doesn’t confine the paper’s view to immigration only, but to all political and legal matters without qualification (“we cannot support breaking laws we don’t like”). That the paper ties support of the law not to justice but to the rule of the whole population begs the question of how the Gazette would object – if at all – to majority rule by legislation in places that oppress political, ethnic, or religious minorities. Shh, hush, hush: you mustn’t make a fuss, it just won’t do!

My forefathers fought in support of the Revolution centuries ago to establish the American Republic, and my family today recognizes a natural right of civil disobedience within the Republic for people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or gender.

I’ve written before that most local publications are useful now not in themselves, but for what they tell about how local insiders think (however poorly) about political or social issues. The Gazette’s editorial is one more example of how shallow that thinking truly is.