Foundations of the Founding (Legitimizing Legitimacy 2)

The Atlantic asks a “Big Question”: “What day most changed the course of history?” The responses from assorted academics and creatives are for the most part predictably bad, not to mention small. The last answer, from Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, qualifies in one way as the obviously worst, but in another as the closest to sensible, and her best-worst answer also happens to turn on the same vague notion of legitimacy that I was just criticizing in relation to our friend B-Psycho’s question to me. She relies on the notion for, I think, the same reason BP does: to conceal the real argument she is making, perhaps even from herself.

Slaughter’s answer for most changeful day ever is as follows:

Trite as it may seem, the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, was the first public assertion of human equality as a legitimate rationale for political action. The Declaration would eventually eat away at the formal barriers of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and any other differences that human beings have created to hold some down and raise others up.

Whether or not this answer is or merely seems “trite,” it qualifies or ought to qualify as embarrassingly illiterate despite its obvious good intentions and superficial thoughtfulness. Put simply – it feels almost cruel or anyway impolite to say so – at the time of the Founding a politics of human equality as a rationale for political action, for the founding or reform of states as well as for revolutions and wars against existing states, had been around for more than 2,000 years – if not for much, much longer, but at least for that long on the historical record as a matter of coherently expressed political philosophy. The Founding is in no sense the “first public assertion” of the legitimacy of this rationale. It is, to cite the canonical example, a main theme of Aristotle’s Politics, and it was a theme for Aristotle not because he was prophesying political developments that would have to wait 2,000 years, but because a politics of human equality was already widespread, well-tested, and fairly comprehensively theorized in his time. Historians and theologians will have little difficulty locating the basis of a politics of human equality in other traditions also, including especially the Judaic and Christian monotheism that, along with Greek and Roman political philosophy, rounded out the “liberal” education that the signatories of the Declaration of Independence, as well as their enemies, had very much in common.

Still, Slaughter was trying to think both “big” and “historical,” while the other answers are mainly distinguished by their self-centeredness: The famous astrophysicist speaks up for an astrophysical event, the American feminist for the day American women got the vote, Oliver Stone for an event covered in an episode of his recent premium cable mini-series, the Yale history professor for an important historical moment perhaps unknown to the average undergraduate. Such parochialism must surely constitute a worse sin than a moment of everyday historical illiteracy perhaps ascribable to the informal context rather than Slaughter’s true state of knowledge on a topic well within the purview of a distinguished Professor of Politics and International Affairs. Taken together, the answers may provide a rough outline on the hopeless un-seriousness of American letters ca. 2013, perhaps even an indirect secondary justification for B-Psycho’s radical rejection of the whole thing, but at least for Professor Slaughter the biggest day in history is one that for her best comprehends that whole thing and a belief about its meaning, not just whatever particular magnitudes.

Where I think Slaughter goes wrong is where she resorts to the same evasion that I accused B-Psycho of attempting. Like BP, Slaughter relies on on an offhand, quasi-colloquial, arguably not entirely legitimate use of the word “legitimate,” as a kind of abstract placeholder for unstated beliefs. In her answer, the word seems to be merely a subordinate adjective, but it quietly carries the entire moral burden of her thesis, as the key contribution made by the Founders regarding the egalitarian ideal and the derivative norms she goes on to list. For her, what was illegitimate on July 3, 1776, somehow became legitimate or was now on the path to true legitimacy on July 5, 1776. In that sense, the Declaration was not simply legitimate, but further represented the proposal or affirmation of an alternative source of legitimacy or mode of legitimation: a foundation for law, not an idea merely “legitimate” within some other body of law. In other words, in addition to having been “public[-ly] asserted” as a political “rationale” for generations, the Radical Whig understanding of political equality that inspired Thomas Jefferson and friends represented its own idea of legitimacy, as did the diverse democratisms, aristocratisms, and so on of Aristotle’s time.

American egalitarianism was offered by the Founders not as merely legitimate, but as the fundamental legitimating norm, or what the German legal idealists called a “Grundnorm,” the norm beyond which the law or the legitimator cannot go without falling off the juridical map. To legitimize such a legitimation we have to appeal to a higher concept or super-legitimacy, to the legitimacy that would legitimize mere political-juridical legitimacy: in short, to some species of natural or revealed or absolute law under whatever name or refusal to name. Such a procedure, obscure where not forbidden to the very modern otherwise all-knowing and free-thinking multicultural academic (or anarchist blogger), would have been second nature for the Founders, most of whom, one suspects, if asked to name the most important day in history, might well have focused on  events in relation to which the years to 1776 happen to have been counted. One suspects further that many among the Founders’ contemporaries – even the actually rather than merely historically illiterate – might have managed at least that level of insight into their own most foundational assumptions.

What Slaughter wants to say but cannot quite say is that, whether or not Western civilization and its deeply embedded egalitarian ideal might have survived a Mongol victory at Vienna in 1241, or perhaps have arisen in quasi-reptilian form among evolved dinosaurs in the absence of the Yucatán asteroid, the 4th of July can be thought to commemorate a true inflection point in human history as a meaningful history. The American Founding as symbolized by whichever of its most important days may or may not qualify as history’s single most course-altering event, but it still invites comparison, without any hint of vulgar “exceptionalism,” to a small handful of other singular moments – as in the Hegelian world-historical concept, but with point of origin transferred to the New World from the Old: perhaps not as the biggest day in the natural history of one damn thing after another from Big Bang to Heat Death, but as a or the day after which history itself, as human history, must be thought of as truly changed.


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34 comments on “Foundations of the Founding (Legitimizing Legitimacy 2)

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  1. For the record, I’d say the question they were asked was inherently flawed because of the assumption of objectivity. That different people thought different events were significant due to their own frame of reference shouldn’t surprise anybody, that can’t help but be the only point to asking the question because you can’t measure “change” like you’d measure cooking ingredients.

    About “legitimacy” I’m not sure what I’m leaving out. Governments generally claim to be representations of the whole of their population, implying that The People rationally agree to what is done. Their authority is thought of as a contract, agreed to by all sides and binding. Yet in practice no government ever holds up their end of the contract, and I’d argue that the nature of government (monopoly of force) is such that none ever can or will make good faith effort to attempt to since they have no incentive, so such agreements are void.

    • Social contract is a theory of government, but not a “deal we made.” For Rousseau, there was no true democracy above the level of the ancient polis. How larger society could be governed equitably or relatively equitably and at least practically was a problem he struggled with in different ways, without, according to some Rousseauists, ever being fully satisifed with his conclusions.

      I’m not one of those people who thinks that the Founders and Framers magically got everything right despite the almost inconceivable differences between the US and the world of 2013 and 18th Century America, but I’m also not one of those people who assumes they hadn’t thought many seemingly brand new problems through, or that the numerous experiments in self-governance they witnessed did not serve them well, and or that many of the conclusions they’ve reached, or that they took from previous thinkers going back to ancient times, weren’t useful conclusions that scale up to mass societies and novel contexts quite well. I don’t think they or we were or are idealists or made a promise of purity rather than pragmatism to the idealists among us. They created and we generally continue to support or tolerate a mixed system partly on the basis of some pessimistic assessments of human nature in the mass as they observed it, and a general sense that politics and government are often an unpleasant, tedious, and frustrating, but still necessary business.

      So I keep on returning to my question on the sources of your fundamental beliefs and expectations, the ones that you claim the current national political system frustrates in some radical way, because I’m curious why it matters to you or why you think it should matter to anyone else. If it’s not a matter of practical effect, implying some reasonable set of comparisons between alternative concrete proposals, what’s being harmed? What difference does it make whether it conforms to some possibly unrealistic or unrealizable abstract ideal? I readily acknowledge that people are often harmed, but how does that differentiate this system from any other known system? The system is far from perfect in its functioning or its results, but on what basis do you assume that a “stateless” state or any other alternative is either available or would actually be more desirable if it were available? If you can’t demonstrate attainability or practical superiority, why is it of moral or any other significance whether the national government is more or less representative of the people in one way as opposed to another, or not at all? Is it more important that it represents their moral values, or that it duplicates their opinions on this, that, or the other set of issues, or that the people in public office happen to “look like them”? What about people who don’t care, or whose aspirations and values would be equally or much better embodied in an aristocracy or a monarchy or one-party state than in a decentralized radically democratic or anarchic system?

      I have other questions, but I’ll leave it at that. In short, if you’re not a radical democrat, why do you care if the system isn’t radically democratic? If you are a radical democrat, why should I agree with you?

      • Remember what I said about different interpretations of “democracy”?

        -Majority en masse rule I reject because it leads to whoever gets the short end of the stick being marginalized, even blatantly oppressed simply for not conforming.

        -“Representative” majoritarianism is a contradiction in terms, and really should be called Oligarchal Pluralism because that’s what it is in practice — elites occasionally arguing on the few things they disagree on, changing nothing.

        So those are out. But small-scale, radically decentralized, with exit easy and voice direct? That kind of “democracy” I’m cool with. Because by then it approaches the best kind of organization: voluntary. No rulers, just associates, partners, political equals.

        If you’re talking that interpretation, then yeah, you could say I’m a radical democrat, with emphasis on “radical”. If majority en masse is your definition, then hell no. Majority en masse leads at best to constant whining by the majority about anyone who isn’t them being defective or “not really (member of nation)” — at its worst it leads to genocide.

        What about people who don’t care, or whose aspirations and values would be equally or much better embodied in an aristocracy or a monarchy or one-party state than in a decentralized radically democratic or anarchic system?

        People who don’t care…don’t care. Though I’d say sooner or later the effect of what is going on while they’re not caring will inevitably smack them when they least expect it.

        People better off in an aristocracy or monarchy? Who would be, other than the monarch or the aristocrat? Even if that were possible, why impose that on everyone else simply because a few may prefer it or see benefit?

        I invoked the “social contract” because that’s generally how people defending government philosophically back up the concept, the implication being that we agreed to it all simply by existing. I’m partial to Lysander Spooner’s response to that, obviously.

        • A good monarch or aristocracy would make good decisions, decisions that contribute to the flourishing or excellence of all. A bad democracy might make bad decisions that happened to have broad support. So someone who doesn’t place a special value on the form of government would have reason to support the former, if attainable, over the latter.

          The mixed system that we have introduces aristocratic aspirations that rely on always arguably oligarchical or un-democratic structures. The people who don’t care in the abstract very much about what kind of system governs them are still human beings with other interests and potentials. They would be better served by a good oligarchy (or aristocracy) than a bad democracy, and a radical democracy may prevent them and almost everyone other than the radical democrats from realizing aspirations that require higher level organization – those could include positive aspirations for trade, travel, education, experience beyond the range of a “city-state,” or could include a desire not to be overwhelmed by others.

  2. No, it’s a big deal, we take it for granted, but much of Scott’s previous creative work on Sliders, suggests the many types of non consent based regimes, we could have become, but that is by following the Lockean model, when one adopts the Rousseauian ‘general will’ all heck often breaks loose.

  3. Just consider two of the popular YA dystopian fiction, Marie Lu’s Legend series, and of course, Stephanie Collin’s the Hunger Games, historically it is more likely that our regime will devolve
    away from republican government then not, for the very hackneyed portrayal, you get Starship Troopers,

    • That is apt, and I believe was one central “exhibit” in Critchley’s case against Zizek or Zizekism. I’d have to double check. It’s hard to be sure because there is so much Zizek out there: Could be the particular passage or another like it.

      Because, like Zizek, Critchley identifies with the Left and is attracted to variously radicalisms, he feels obligated to take Zizek on on this turf. They both are trying to align their different kinds of “interest”: They find radical or would be radical oppositional politics intellectually interesting; their real professional and personal interests are tied up with visions of the radical or what Voegelin would call gnosticism; and they also seem to want to define a wider, practical-political interest for their students, colleagues, fellow national or world citizens.

      What is the point of our being interested in radicalism? Does there have to be a “point”? If there doesn’t have to be one, then Leftism and revolutionism are hard to distinguish from a hobby or an aesthetic preference or any other meaningless, consumable diversion. Zizekism begins to seem like an incredibly long-winded intervention against the initial inclinations and extended assumptions of those attracted to his subject matters. As long as you’re reading Zizek, you’re simply inactive rather than pseudo-active. Critchley wants to preserve a possibility of Left-revolutionary activity that isn’t merely pseudo even if its course and consequences are difficult to spell out or define, that still respects and can offer something in relation to the real suffering and aspirations of the victims somehow evacuated from Zizek’s intellectual world.

  4. Of course if we’ve seen the last season of Homeland, one is posed with the question, do you take out Brody, before he takes out the CIA headquarters, I think the show lost focus, this time,

    • Wasn’t interested enough to re-subscribe, didn’t get the sense it was as well-loved by the fans as previously, only ever watched the previous season finale all the way through.

      Of course, you “take him out” if that’s the only way to stop him. To make the hypothesis discussable, you need to construct the scenario, because who knows what when and how is all.

  5. I don’t see any legitimate argument in CK’s argument that counters Slaughter’s statement. Agreeing with B-psycho, the problem was with the question, not her answer. In fact, she gave the only acceptable answer because the fact that what the Founders wrote continues to have one significant positive effect is about all we can say from a pluralistic (Sliders) perspective. Over and over, people have tried to deny minority group human rights, and eventually all those efforts have failed on a political level. It is the only positive effect that can be legitimately credited to the Founders and it was probably luck. I use the word legitimate over and over here to annoy CK in the way that he continues to annoy me with his “splitting.” Over and over, I have tried to explain to him how splitting does not serve him in the Hegelian way that he supposes it does (even though he thinks of it as something else). Over and over, he ignores how he argues a legitimate point away successfully in direct refutation of common sense only because he wants another illegitimate point to survive his scrutiny. The point that could change his thinking is argued away according to Ultimate perspectives that can’t be argued no matter what, and then once that point is argued away he is free to think another thought that he wants to think only because it happens to soothe his troubled mind. I want his troubled mind to be soothed but it is painful to watch the splitting, ala George Bush, because it is so Bush and has so much to do with father issues. Sorry, CK. I hope you at least think what I’ve written here is funny somehow. Legitimate, legitimate, legitimate. You could be soothed in a way that connects with B-psycho is saying. “We do one thing and another thing happens.” B-psycho tries to be psycho and another thing happens. You would do well to see his points.

    • Dude – you missed the fact that she missed the fact that the Founders weren’t first on the scene at all with an order based on human equality. Not even close, not by a couple millennia, and, look, it just doesn’t do to wish away a disagreement or pretend a higher understanding when maybe you just don’t understand at all.

      • None of us understand at all. And where in the post do you make the point that the Founders were on the late show? If you made that point, you’re right, I missed it. But I was really looking. I made it a point to look for the point. Admittedly, I said to myself, “he’s not going to explain why her point is ’embarrassingly illiterate.'” How is it embarrassingly illiterate? Being late to the party doesn’t make what the Founders did in that one way any less important. And even if what she says is embarrassingly illiterate in your opinion, you don’t substantiate that in the post.

        • You sure you’re the only one who didn’t understand? She claimed that the Founders were the first, and that 4 July 1776 was the day of days that most changed the course of history, as supposedly the “first” assertion of “human equality” as a political rationale, ever. It’s absurd.

        • What is unclear about this statement, immediately following the presentation of hers:

          Whether or not this answer is or merely seems “trite,” it qualifies or ought to qualify as embarrassingly illiterate despite its obvious good intentions and superficial thoughtfulness. Put simply – it feels almost cruel or anyway impolite to say so – human equality as a rationale for political action, for the founding or reform of states as well as for revolutions and wars against existing states, is a main theme of Aristotle’s Politics, and it was a theme for Aristotle not because he was prophesying political developments that would have to wait 2,000 years, but because a politics of human equality was already widespread, well-tested, and fairly comprehensively theorized in his time.

          I then give other examples. Here, I’ll split it into a few sentences.

          Put simply – it feels almost cruel or anyway impolite to say so – human equality as a rationale for political action, for the founding or reform of states as well as for revolutions and wars against existing states, had been around for more than 2,000 years if not for much, much longer, but at least for that long as a matter of political philosophy. It is a main theme of Aristotle’s Politics, and it was a theme for Aristotle not because he was prophesying political developments that would have to wait 2,000 years, but because a politics of human equality was already widespread, well-tested, and fairly comprehensively theorized in his time.

          • I did miss that she claimed it to be the “first,” and that in making that error she was dismissing all the previous points. She shouldn’t have done that and you’re points are well taken in connection with that. I think she would probably concede that point. Given the strong language of your post, I was expecting a stronger objection and looked over the one you did substantiate. I get it now, but what I was looking for was a reason why her belief that it was important was “embarrassing.” She might be right other than the “first” claim, but I guess you do make that point too. So, okay, I get your point. It was just stated so strongly I was looking for more and missed the less altogether. Sorry.

            • Here are a couple things you might not be sensitive to: 1) Slaughter is a sort of C-list celebrity professor, frequent expert invited on CNN, MacNeil-Lehrer type shows; 2) she holds a distinguished chair at Princeton, where she’s Prof of Politics and Int’l Affairs; 3) she’s a strong liberal internationalist, meaning she can frequently be found arguing in favor of US military intervention on behalf of struggling or embattled democratic or possibly democratic forces in places like Libya or Syria.

              So it’s embarrassing, or ought to be embarrassing, for a bigtime professor of politics to make a statement that tends to vulgar American “exceptionalism” (we’re #1, USA USA USA), that a first year philosophy student wouldn’t make. But it’s typical of the “Second Cave” that we’re so far detached from the basics of our own tradition that our best and brightest run around speaking nonsense and getting it published in our best and brightest magazines. Does it matter? I think that having a narrow understanding of history and the ancient origins of our ideas encourages a narrow approach to others and a fetishization of “the new,” as though we’re the ones who figured out everything, that all was darkness before us just as all is darkness without us. I would have expected you of all people to appreciate this problem as a problem. That’s why I’m now so very sad and thinking that a Bond movie might be my only hope.

              • I did have a sense that you weren’t just picking on some hapless sort. You did make that clear. So it’s okay. Something cool did happen anyway, which is that I did (on purpose sort of–at least as on purpose as an ADDman can be purposeful with these kinds of things) what I was accusing you of. First, I wrote “No one understands.” That’s true from an Ultimate perspective because Ultimately all ideology fails. But then I used that split to open up the ideological channel for my accusation that I stated just to make myself feel good. And since the Lakers just won I can assume your mind is soothed to the point of this point not being a kick em while they’re down kind of thing.

                • I figgered you just felt like encouraging Mr. P, in the interest of further productive disagreement, and I don’t mind at all being stimulated to think things through, express myself more clearly, and provide back-up evidence. My sadness was about being misunderstood. I don’t expect “everyone” to get along, but I do think that those like you all taking the time to think things through can find a kind of zone of non-conflict. I don’t want to wipe out Mr. P’s ideal radically free city-state, but I don’t want to see it come only at the expense of other worthy alternatives, or not come about at all in any good form because based on unrealistic or self-contradictory precepts.

        • OK, I’ve re-written the passage in the post so that I don’t think anyone who is playing fair could miss the point, though I still wonder how many people missed it the first time. I will soon go drown my sorrows and salve my frustrations with dinner and SKYFALL.

          • I actually loved Skyfall. I was really surprised. Better to go into it not expecting more than a Bond thing, but it is more in respect to the archetypal play of mother-father issues. A perfect thread here, actually.

            • Best part was the credit sequence. Overall, the film struck me as more visually arresting than dynamic, so a little disappointing for a contemporary action film. Least favorite moment was the execution of the Macau babe. All she gets is a throwaway line, “waste of good Scotch,” and a shot of her doubled-over and dead. The line was excusable since it set up a Bond escape move, but the treatment overall seemed gratuitously heartless. As often with these storylines, you wonder where the arch-villain finds so many proficient and disciplined killers willing to die for him. Others have asked whether the plot made any or enough sense at all.

            • So I still think Casino Royale is the best of the Craig Bonds, and the best single Bond movie ever, even though the last part tailed off for me some and was a bit lame here and there. Don’t hate QoS, but agree it was a bit of a letdown overall, even though I liked the set-pieces more than Sr. Cervantes did. Will have to see if SKYFALL grows on me, may give it a quick second look while I still can on the PPV rental.

    • For example – just one of potentially very many, since Mr. Aristotle examines the question of human equality and orders founded upon it from many different perspectives. (Was going to quote a few examples, but I was a little bit lazy, and anyone who looks into the matter at all knows that Slaughter was as wrong as she could be.)

      The Politics, Book VI, Ch 2:

      The basis of a democratic state is liberty; which, according to the common opinion of men, can only be enjoyed in such a state; this they affirm to be the great end of every democracy. One principle of liberty is for all to rule and be ruled in turn, and indeed democratic justice is the application of numerical not proportionate equality; whence it follows that the majority must be supreme, and that whatever the majority approve must be the end and the just. Every citizen, it is said, must have equality, and therefore in a democracy the poor have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme. This, then, is one note of liberty which all democrats affirm to be the principle of their state. Another is that a man should live as he likes. This, they say, is the privilege of a freeman, since, on the other hand, not to live as a man likes is the mark of a slave. This is the second characteristic of democracy, whence has arisen the claim of men to be ruled by none, if possible, or, if this is impossible, to rule and be ruled in turns; and so it contributes to the freedom based upon equality.

      As a philosopher, Mr. A. could not help but consider that the notion of equality favored by democrats was problematic. In that passage he refers to “numerical” vs. “proportionate” equality. Put in economic terms, what’s “equal” to a wealthy person is that everyone’s role in the state be “fairly” proportioned according to wealth. Put in terms of human virtue, proportionate equality would mean that the most excellent individuals should have more influence than the wicked or slavish – their influence should be proportionate to their virtue, to the good they bring to the common life. So, for someone who believes that the ideal state would be one ordered toward excellence, raw numerical equality is unfair.

      Put this way, the notions may seem obscure or alien to us modern democrats, until you consider that favoring the “best person” for a political office is an aristocratic, not a democratic orientation. We are all or almost all complete aristocrats when it comes to that. The democratic orientation would say, as was the case in more radical democracies, that office-holders should be selected randomly, or even that overly eminent or charismatic people might have to be precluded from holding office or even banished because of the threat that their influence posed to democratic “numerical” equality. In a radical democracy, the wealthy are not just encouraged to share, but our forced to divest themselves of their wealth. We don’t do that, and the Founders weren’t interested in that at all – even setting aside their little slavery problem. “Leveling” of that sort has never been widely popular, which brings you to the central contradictions of democracy: How does democratism handle the multitude’s democratically or even consensually arrived-at decisions for a non-democratic way of handling things. Alternatively, if democracy needs to be more or less permanently protected against such democratic un-democracy, who decides where the limits are, and on which matters, and how is such restraint democratic? This is a main problem that Mr. P’s radical democratism will encounter or already encounters. Sooner or later and in more ways than one, the people vote themselves out of office, or have already pre-emptively abdicated.

      So, if you’re philosophically minded and impartial, you look at these facts and especially the undefinability of the pure ideal, and start over with consideration of the good you’re trying to achieve and what’s the best you can do with the real human material on hand at whatever relevant level.

      • Yes. That’s why some of the best times in India’s history happened when a good king was reigning. A great king is a great thing. Unfortunately, when bad kings reign there’s nothing worse for the people.

        • Right, so much of the classical interrogation, renewed and, according to some, uniquely advanced by the American Founders, is a judicious comparison of the alternatives given the vulnerabilities of each main form of government. Strauss argues that among the alternatives for mass societies, the liberal democratic form comes closest to what the classical thinkers recommended, but he says that in full cognizance of the fact that the mass liberal democratic regime falls short both of the classical ideal and of the modern ideal. Hegel believed he had successfully described the best and final form for modern nation-states, but arguably failed to account for or simply could not foresee the dynamic, disruptive as well as organizing synergies of applied natural science or technology, free market economics, and the settlement of North America. We’re still within the era of geometrical rates of change, for instance of population, with reason to wonder whether a necessary new phase of relative stability will come hard or easy. After or in the process of a Great Stabilization or new and truer “end of history,” the Hegelian model viewed broadly begins to make more sense, as Francis Fukuyama has lately been saying, just not in so many words.

  6. She was also Obama’s State Planning chief, a post held by Kennan and Fukiyama among others, the fact that you take this experiment, imperfect as it has been at times, for granted, I guess shouldn’t surprise me,

    • How do you get “for granted” out of any of that? I think if you reflect on it you’ll see that I’ve provided the basis for the most resilient and durable defense of the realm available. True, it requires a certain modesty about what one might dare to claim on its behalf, but going any further does make you decisively vulnerable to the very strong criticisms that our friends Messrs. Psycho and Miller have every right to make. Whatever’s truly great or excellent or not to be taken “for granted” hardly needs advertisement in a micro-blog’s comment thread or anywhere else. A truly conservative disposition is one that would take solemn pride in continuity all the way down to the ancient roots rather than in some illusory and transitory innovation.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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So, does Mitchell make any money on the work, which has been shared so many times? He uploaded a high-res image of the symbol and granted permission for anyone to use it personally for free. But for those who want to support his work or simply want something readymade, you can also buy T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, and journals emblazoned with the symbol through Threadless.“I really just want to spread the image as much as possible and cement it in history,” Mitchell says. “In all honesty, the amount I’ve made from my Threadless shop so far is still less than my hourly rate, so I don’t really see it as a big deal. If you look at my Twitter, half the replies are people wanting to know where they can buy a shirt. Threadless is happy to help them out with that, and so I’m happy to let that happen.”Now that the symbol has flooded our streets and our timelines, Mitchell just has one request: “Impeach this idiot already,” he says.

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This is a Waterloo moment for Trump, the tea party and their alliance. They have been stopped in their tracks not only by Democratic opposition but because of a mutiny within their own ranks. Although never particularly liked or respected, it is now clear that they are no longer feared. The bankruptcy of their ideas and their incompetence have been exposed. Their momentum has been dissipated. Their rejection of political norms has itself been scorned. Our long national nightmare may finally be coming to an end.

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