The American Journey

Author: Gary Hart

A critical chapter in America’s complex story is being written right now.  Will we continue to be a Republic founded on democratic rights and ideals.  Or will we continue to permit a slide into authoritarian populism recently overtaking democracies here and elsewhere.

Since the media finds it easier to focus on personalities than ideas, this historic moment will almost totally be about Donald Trump and the future of what, for lack of a better reference, is being referred to as “Trumpism”, never quite defined.

It is fashionable to characterize moments like this as a “crossroads”.  And in this case that description is accurate.  These are turning points that define individuals, societies, and nations.

In important ways the question is how to save democracy, and its freedoms, without resorting to undemocratic means and methods.

Bringing stricter law enforcement and surveillance tactics to bear on the plethora of right-wing militia and quasi-political organizations can easily […] Continue Reading…

Repudiation of Democracy

Author: Gary Hart

The current juvenile chaos in the Republican Congressional caucuses is like nothing less than watching a family feud after the evening circus performance with the departing crowd of spectators hearing the clanging and banging and wondering what it’s all about.

It is a side-show drama important primarily to the combatants within the two major factions of the post-Trump era in the Republican party.  Like academic politics, it is vicious because the stakes are so low.

The stakes in this case seem to be leadership of the Trump cult, “base”, or whatever you want to call it and the more sane, traditional Republican party as the two sides prepare for what will likely be a prolonged, painful, and only slightly rewarding ownership of whatever remains of the Republican party.

Serious Republican analysts now claim a clash between the authoritarian (Trump) wing of the party and traditional Constitutional Republicans has started and is a […] Continue Reading…

Anger

Author: Gary Hart

Does American politics demand anger?  The answer is clearly no.  Then why are we so angry with each other?

I know the answer is no because I served in the United States Senate where, at least during the 1970s, there was little anger, at least by today’s standards, and a general atmosphere of cooperation and conciliation between the two major parties and the complex coalitions they each represented.

Then things changed.  Something called “movement conservatism” arose and had a my way or the highway attitude.  It contained a good deal of anger and considerable resistance to negotiation or cooperation.  Domestic and foreign policy issues became black and white virtually overnight.

At the same time, the news business began to migrate away from the centrist non-partisan networks toward partisan media providing support for and confirming the biases of a polarizing electorate.  This new media confirmed our hardening biases.  They told us what we […] Continue Reading…

The Never-Ending Drama

Author: Gary Hart

Relying, as usual, on something called a “tweet” whose brevity seemed to suit his attention span, the incumbent president, one month ahead of his Constitutionally mandated departure from the White House, let it be known that he was in no hurry to leave, the Constitution and the regular order be damned, and that he might just linger on until it suited him to depart.

This characteristically obstreperous behavior was implicitly justified by his continued insistence that the national election was “rigged” (no evidence offered), that the president-elect, though certified by the electoral college, was essentially an imposter, and that he, the incumbent, remained president and thus held the keys to the White House until he and he alone decided to move on.

As with much else in the last four years, this made interesting theater, with the American people holding their collective breath to determine what drama might ensue.  Though the […] Continue Reading…

Democracy and Duty

Author: Gary Hart

“When Mr. Trump tried to subvert the election, he failed abjectly because countless people did their duty.”  This from the leader entitled The Resilience of Democracy in The Economist. (Nov 28, 2020)

Unfortunately, more than 100 Republican Members of Congress and a dozen and a half Republican governors were not among them.

Those Republican officials who did their duty and honored their oath of office were targeted for abuse from thuggish Trumpian gangs.

Democracy fails when party is placed above nation.  And much of the Trump campaign was about Trump and not America.  A malignant narcissist cannot communicate, let alone govern, without the first-person singular pronoun.

Even as the number of Americans dying each day reached 9/11 levels, the failed candidate ranted on about a false “stolen” election and not a word of concern for his plague-ridden country.

In the Trump-sphere, patriotism is defined by loyalty to the MAGA hat and not the American […] Continue Reading…

Keep Our Republic

Author: Gary Hart

Keep Our Republic Reading Room: A Recommendation

To those interested in the American Republic and republicanism, Edward Watts 2018 book Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell Into Tyranny is highly recommended.  It is very readable and accessible ancient history and bears lessons for the 21st century American Republic.

Depending on one’s dating methods, the roots of Roman republicanism date to the late 5th and early 4th centuries B.C.  The Watts book principally concerns itself with the third, second, and first centuries B.C. when Rome experienced structural, political, and social changes that transformed it from a republic to an empire.

At the height of its republican powers, Rome, as we know, was governed by a “complicated but elegant set of offices and procedures designed to protect this shared Roman liberty by encouraging political compromise, building durable consensuses, and ensuring shared government of the Republic.”  This elegant arrangement enabled influential patricians and plebians to govern […] Continue Reading…

Meditation on Thanksgiving

Author: Gary Hart

Though we in the United States set aside a day each year to give thanks for our earliest colonialists and mythically for the Native people who purportedly befriended them as the first winter arrived, we have reason to give thanks for much more than that somewhat imagined event and for much longer than one day.

Despite the human devastation of the plague-like pandemic, some of which at least that could have been ameliorated, and the human economic and social misery it has brought, things could always be worse.  No new recent wars, vaccines finally on the way, and most of all a new president and administration dedicated to the traditional principles America struggles to uphold.

The brightest and best news in a quadrennium is this election, though it will be contested by the loser as long as he lives.  We have every reason to expect the United States will return to […] Continue Reading…

The New Snopeses

Author: Gary Hart

Many years ago I wrote a graduate school term paper on the several levels of humor discussed by Aristotle and used William Faulkner’s trilogy The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion to show how Faulkner had qualified in every Aristotelean category.

Faulkner was using his great literary gifts to pillory the rise of a new class of ambitious, lower class, not well-educated clans then breaking into Southern politics and trades.  The family in the trilogy was called Snopes and they often gave themselves colorful names in a misbegotten effort to self-create status if not also nobility.

There was an Admiral Dewey Snopes, for example, a Montgomery Ward Snopes, and the patriarch was Flem Snopes who invented names for others who came along.  But the stories trace their lineage back to Flem.

The Snopes family appeared overnight in the hamlet and, after taking it over, moved onto the town, and then ended up […] Continue Reading…

Hope Versus Fear

Author: Gary Hart

To say that America is divided is to echo dozens if not hundreds of similar observations.  But this division isn’t just ideological or partisan.  It is between those who see the election as restoring hope and those locked in fear.

On the hopeful side are those who believe President-elect Joe Biden will now lead a great restoration project to return the nation to its principled roots and standards, repair our badly damaged relations with our allies, conquer the demon virus, and put us back on the path of reason, science, and facts.

On the fearful side is pretty much the entire Republican Party.  And this is a mystery.  What are all these senior elected officials, donors, interest groups, and ambitious candidates afraid of?  The answer is both simple and bewildering.  They are all afraid of Donald Trump.

But he is headed, willingly or not, to Mar-a-Lago.  What is the fear?

For the elected […] Continue Reading…

The Cure at Troy

Author: Gary Hart

Seamus Heaney, Nobel Prize poet laureate, and late-in-life classicist, translated a play by Sophocles entitled Philoctetes.  He called it The Cure at Troy.

It is the story of a Greek warrior en route to Troy to join his countrymen in their epic siege at Troy.  Their ship stopped at a small island on the way to offer sacrifices to the goddess and Philoctetes was bitten by a venomous snake.  His malodorous wound so offended his shipmates that he was put ashore alone on the remote island of Lemnos.

There, alone and exiled, Philoctetes spent years suffering without companionship or news about the progress of the Trojan war.

Because of the war’s stalemate, the future wanderer of  the ages, Odysseus, and a companion, Neoptolemus, the son of the legendary Achilles,  backtracked to Lemnos to rescue Philoctetes and to convince him to return with them to Troy with his lone possession, a magical  bow […] Continue Reading…