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‘A Land Of Jerking Knees’

After reading a Washington Post story making fun of Donald Trump’s penchant for fast food, Terry Teachout despairs for his country: [1]

Note the transition from “some people” to “us.” As in: Not our kind, dearie. After which come the sneers. I’m no fan of Donald Trump—that’s putting it very, very mildly—but I also know that of such sneers are revolutions made.

This “news” story is, in its minor but nonetheless revealing way, illustrative of the condition that now increasingly prevails in American society, which is that those who disagree no longer have anything to say to each other. Fact-based argument has been replaced by reflexive contempt. Nor should this be in any way surprising. In a totally polarized political environment, persuasion is no longer possible: we believe what we believe, and nothing matters but class and power. We are well on the way to becoming a land of jerking knees.

Never before have I felt so strongly that Americans are talking past instead of to one another. It is, I fear, our future and our fate—which is why I have come to believe that I will live to see Red and Blue America negotiate a “soft disunion.” No, there won’t be a second civil war. I can’t imagine the citizens of Blue America waging a shooting war over much of anything, least of all continued union with people whom they disdain. (Red America is a different story.) But the gap that separates the two Americas has grown so deep and wide that I find it increasingly difficult to imagine their caring to function as a single nation for very much longer. If I’m right, then I expect that they will ultimately find a more or less polite way to stop doing so.

Read the whole thing.  [1] I know just what he means, and so do you. But what form will this “soft disunion” take, if we have one? It’s hard for me to imagine how that would actually work. But it’s true that a people who hate each other won’t stay together forever (though the long, slow, agonizing death of Belgium is a counterargument to this thesis). The constitutional crisis will be precipitated when one of the states refuses to follow a lawful order by President Trump (California) or President Clinton (Texas).

Pay attention to what Teachout says about sneering at Trump’s fast-food habit. It’s a mouse-that-roared kind of thing. Though I don’t share Trump’s food habits, I don’t see them as morally culpable. But food habits are big class markers in this culture, and Trump supporters aren’t wrong to see sneering at Trump’s Filet-o-fish passion as a proxy for sneering at them.

As I wrote earlier [2], the editorial board of The New York Times, in its lead editorial today, smears the blood of the Orlando dead on Republicans and (implicitly) on all others who oppose certain laws favored by LGBT advocates. I don’t think they’re being cynical. They really believe this. They think I, and people like me, are indirectly responsible for a radical Muslim rageaholic and closet case mass-murdering gay people. If the left really believes that, then they aren’t going to stop until they’ve crushed us, because we’re not just wrong, but evil. 

Would you want to share a country with such “evil” people, unless you could render them as dhimmis? Conversely, would you want to share a country with people — especially powerful people in media, politics, industry, and academia — who think you are evil because you believe in and practice orthodox Christianity?

change_me

I don’t, and I’m a RINO squish with Blue State tastes but Red State religion. I have no problem sharing a country with people who think I am wrong, but should be tolerated. I strive to grant them the same courtesy. But increasingly, that is not the country I live in. I don’t know what to do about that, and am not interested in thinking about what could be done about it.

But some people, somewhere, are thinking about it. And sooner or later, we are going to hear from them.

It is said that America is a nation built on an idea, not a tribe. If that is true, then it follows that an idea can be falsified. The game we’re playing now is for very high stakes.

154 Comments (Open | Close)

154 Comments To "‘A Land Of Jerking Knees’"

#1 Comment By Joys-R-Us On June 19, 2016 @ 2:22 pm

Perichoresis,

No, the 10th amendment grants states the powers not enumerated to the federal government, not whatever the federal government can’t “grab.”

The problem with this is that the powers that are enumerated include the power to regulate interstate commerce. This power turns out to be immense, and allows the Feds to regulate just about everything. Likewise with a few other powers that turn out to be incredibly broad. I don’t like the way the Supreme Court has interpreted those powers either, but it’s not illogical. I don’t remember the name of the case, but there was a woman growing medical marijuana in her own garden at home, not selling it either in state or out of state, and it was ruled that nevertheless her actions were affecting the prices of the interstate market in cannabis, and thus it was legal for the Feds to regulate it or forbid it.

So what’s left over for the 10th amendment? Not much. So yeah, it all needs to be re-written in much more specific language.

#2 Comment By Perichoresis On June 19, 2016 @ 8:44 pm

Joys-R-Us: “The problem with this is that the powers that are enumerated include the power to regulate interstate commerce. This power turns out to be immense, and allows the Feds to regulate just about everything. Likewise with a few other powers that turn out to be incredibly broad. I don’t like the way the Supreme Court has interpreted those powers either, but it’s not illogical.”

The power was never intended to be immense, and was not interpreted that way from 1800 to the mid 1930s. The Court adopted that intepretation to get a pro-New Deal result after Roosevelt threatened his court-packing scheme.

#3 Comment By Eamus Catuli On June 20, 2016 @ 3:54 am

The power was never intended to be immense, and was not interpreted that way from 1800 to the mid 1930s. The Court adopted that intepretation to get a pro-New Deal result after Roosevelt threatened his court-packing scheme.

This is true, but the broad interpretation went on to become very well entrenched; judges appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents were largely in agreement about it at least until very recently.

I’m not a legal historian, but my guess would be that this was because the broad reading of federal interstate commerce power served powerful interests: corporate America, for instance, would rather deal with one regulatory authority for the whole country than with 51. (Although what it likes best of all is “state” authority that the feds then require all other states to honor, thus creating a race to the bottom. That’s how you get 22% interest rates on credit cards: the whole country in effect has to follow the rules set by one opportunistic state. This is also the GOP’s plan for national health insurance.)

Alexander Hamilton, who among the Founders probably foresaw most accurately how the U.S. economy would develop, also had very little use for the authority of the states and would just as soon have seen them abolished. For a nascent industrial nation, he thought, they were anachronistic. He didn’t get his way on that at the time, but broad federal IC authority was probably inevitable at some point in modern industrial development.

#4 Comment By Joys-R-Us On June 20, 2016 @ 5:12 am

I agree that the power was not intended to be immense, but then again, the Founding Fathers really had no clue what modern economies would become, and they didn’t write these Amendments with much foreknowledge of the future. They didn’t put a limit on what regulation of interstate commerce would mean, and so the courts have essentially put no limits on it either. That’s one reason why the Constitution has been an inadequate governing document for a long time. It’s poorly written, vague, unclear in many parts, and subject therefore to massive revision based on its wording. Not bad for its time, but far from what is needed now.