Politics, Government, and the Federal System

So…President Trump?  I find it hard to type the words, but if I had had a blog in 1980, I would have found it hard to type “President Reagan.”  I don’t pretend to have begun, yet, to come to grips with last night’s disaster, but in this morning’s brief reflection–it has to be short because I have work to do today [1], I want to talk about some things that will help me.  Maybe they will help you.

Reflection 1

Whoever is having success at the national level begins to neglect the importance of politics and government at the state level.  The other side of that same coin is that the people in the states get accustomed to shifting their attention to the other side of whatever initiative is being taken at the national level.  For today, that means that the left edge of the politically possible in each state is going to start receiving more attention.

States shrug, it seems, and say, “Well then, I guess we’ll have to do it ourselves.”  A great deal of good work at the state level is just about to begin.  If it weren’t for the punniness of it, I would say we are just beginning an era of “states-manship.”

Reflection 2

broken Bridges

The expression “politics and government” is common in our language, but an appreciation of the different realities they point to is not so common.  “Politics,” as it is normally thought of is the partisan contest for the offices where power can be exercised.  “Government” is the process if identifying national needs and aspirations and collecting the will and the resources to meet them successfully.  Politics is about collecting votes.  Government is about keeping the country safe and the bridges in good repair. [2]

Reflection 3

I don’t fill my days with TV watching and hand-wringing.  There are things I have chosen to spend my time on.  Out of force of habit, I call these things “my work,” and some of them “my ministry.”  (Overlapping categories.)  They matter immediately.  The success or failure of these things is immediate; it is something I experience.  In a few hours, some dear friends and I will be leading a Bible study class, for instance.  Today, we will be considering the early failures of the Israelites after they were rescued from Egypt by a God they had only recently heard of. [3]  They had been slaves for many generations and that turned out not to be the background that led easily to becoming a covenant people, a people who honored the God who chose them and freed them.  Then, God willing, we will discuss what our own preparation to be free and responsible has been like.  It is good work to have available on such a cataclysmic day and I will very probably work it harder than I would have otherwise.

Reflection 4

And last (and briefly) I cannot imagine a better scenario leading to the victory speech of President-elect Elizabeth Warren.  I don’t think she could have followed four years or eight years of Hillary’s presidency and I don’t know if she will be willing to run, but the ball has just been teed up perfectly for her and I like her very much.

[1]  I am indebted to my brother Mark for having, many years ago, passed along a prayer he had found somewhere.  The man has a mind like a vacuum cleaner.  The prayer goes, “Thank you, God, for giving me work to do that is so important that it doesn’t matter very much whether I want to do it at the time.”

[2]  The progressives of the late 1800s used to campaign against urban political machines and their use of contracts for friends by saying that there is no Democratic way or Republican way of paving the streets.  (There are, of course, political donors who are Republicans and some who are Democrats.)  This bridge needs to be fixed.  The people who live there need for it to be fixed.  That’s government.

[3]  Pharoah said, “Who is this Yahweh that I should obey him?”  Oddly, the Hebrew slaves said the same thing.  Neither they nor the Pharoah had ever heard of this “YHWH.”  When you face the prospect of a tough sell, remember Moses with compassion.


About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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8 Responses to Politics, Government, and the Federal System

  1. thinkydoug says:

    This seems as good a time as any to get philosophical about all this. I keep telling myself that Trump hasn’t been appointed king, and can’t unilaterally enact all the batsh*t crazy things he’s promised to do, but this is a serious and embarrassing indictment of our country. I guess now we wait to see what actually happens.

  2. hessdale says:

    It is an indictment, I agree. But Hillary wouldn’t have addressed any of the issues the Trumpers are angry about. The country is on a binge and we will wake up with a hangover and wonder how to fix all the things we did when we were drunk.

    • thinkydoug says:

      I’m honestly torn between hoping things go horribly, horribly wrong and hoping that, in spite of it all, things go well. My better self hopes for the latter, but I fear for what will happen to a country that voted for THIS and gets a good result. A neighbor of mine wrote on FB this morning that she voted for Trump because she was tired of having her “freedoms taken away.” I have no idea what that means, and I’m confident she doesn’t either.

  3. hessdale says:

    I agree. It is something people have learned to say. The discontent is genuine. The attribution is bogus.

  4. Melisa says:

    Just to join your discussion I read an interview with Michael Moore on Amy Goodman. A few sentences that Michael Moore said were what I was thinking: “So, when the rightfully angry people of Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin find out after a few months in office that President Trump wasn’t going to do a damn thing for them, it will be too late to do anything about it. But I get it. You wanted to send a message. You had righteous anger and justifiable anger. Well, message sent. Good night, America. You’ve just elected the last president of the United States.” I don’t think Trump will be the last President (at least I hope not) but I feel pretty sure about everything else. Then I wonder if the people will even notice and if they notice if they will be bold enough to stand up and say they made a mistake or will they become even more disenfranchised with politics and withdraw.

  5. hessdale says:

    Welcome to the conversation, Melisa. I agree entirely that the people of those swing states were “rightfully angry.” Electing Trump was like a good belch. I relieved a lot of gas and reduced the pressure you feel. But changing your diet is the longer-run problem and I don’t think we have begun to address that. I have a great deal more respect for the Framers–the founding Architects of the Republic–that to think that the First Bozo will take the whole structure down. They built a system rich in inertia, which was Obama’s curse, but it will be a blessing under Trump.

  6. Couldn’t imagine a “President Nixon,” or President G. W. Bush either..Not so worried about Trump. He’s not an ideologue but his election has opened the floodgates of an all-Republican government.. After the poor lose their health care, they’ll have much to celebrate. After the Republicans squander taxpayer money on one last, vindictive prosecution of Hillary Clinton, there will be little money for the safety net,– if the Republicans haven’t repealed it. Oh yeah! Happy Days are Here Again!, .

    • hessd says:

      They aren’t going to be very happy days, I think, but I think they will be survivable days. I’m looking for a lot of countervailing powers to kick in and limit the damage. When I get really discouraged, I go back and read the Federalist #10 and I imagine those provisions as a kind of strait-jacket placed on any one administration.

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