What's Tony Thinking

July 21, Another Week Ends


Neither Trump Nor DeSantis? George Will, the dean of conservative columnists, has predicted that neither Trump nor his chief rival, Ron DeSantis, will emerge from the Republican primary gauntlet, victorious. Agree or disagree, you gotta admire Will’s willingness to go out on a limb.

According to Will, Trump has all the appeal of “stale crust of sourdough bread,” while DeSantis — to change the metaphor — is this year’s Edsel. The car that was to be the one everyone wanted. Turned out, no one wanted it. After two years in production it was cancelled. “Edsel” remains in our vocabulary as a synonym for “a bust.” Will seems to think voters don’t like being told that this or that candidate is inevitable, and will rise up to do what they aren’t supposed to do. One hopes.

Meanwhile the dean of local political columnists, Joel Connelly, terms Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal a “show pony” not a work horse. Jayapal does like media attention. A frequent guest on MSNBC and CNN, Jayapal appears to be one of the lefties who mirror the righties use of their office for performative purposes. Fortunately, our congressional delegation includes some notable workhorses like Kim Schirer and Adam Smith.

The Binary Disaster. Pamela Paul at the NYT laments the seemingly inevitable and “disastrous binary choice” of Trump v. Biden to which we are fated. (“Binary,” is au courant, using it signals you are with it.) Paul regrets that Biden doesn’t have the excitement factor of, say, Obama in 2008. Personally, I’m okay with not looking for a messiah in politics. Political messiahs tend to be, at best, disappointing, and at worst, they morph into dictators. So Biden is boring. Given everything else, boring may be okay. Gratefully, the messiah job is already taken.

And boring Biden seems to be steady-on in a plan and with policies that address actual problems. Perhaps his greatest booster is the historian, Heather Cox Richardson, whose remarkable “Letters from An American,” frequently report on the slow, steady, non-glamourous work of governance that the Biden administration is getting done. People complain of Biden’s age. But maybe someone of such an age gets that it’s not all about him or his ego? Trump, of course, isn’t far behind Biden in age with no sign of age conferring wisdom.

Human Fallibility and the Constitution. Never-Trumper and evangelical Christian, David French, argues in the NYT that the Christian doctrine of original sin informs our constitutional system of checks and balances. Here’s French,

The doctrine of original sin rejects the idea that we are intrinsically good and are corrupted only by the outside world. Instead, we enter life with our own profound and inherent flaws. We are all, in a word, fallen. Under this understanding of Scripture, we are all our own greatest enemy — Christians as fully as those who do not share our beliefs. We do not, either as individuals or as a religious movement, possess an inherent virtue that should entitle any of us to rule. We shun the will to power because we rightly fear our own sin.

This proper skepticism about human virtue pervades the Constitution. At every turn, the power of government is hemmed in. Each branch checks the other. The people check the government, and the government checks the people. The Bill of Rights attempts to safeguard our most fundamental human rights from government overreach or the tyranny of the mob. No faction can be trusted with unchecked authority.

The point is not “America is a Christian nation.” But that a sound skepticism about human beings, including ourselves, makes a system of checks and balances a good idea. We are seeing this system in action as a would be authoritarian, Trump, is indicted by a still working system of courts and justice.

Heading off backpacking next week. On my last trip into the wilderness I got my first sighting of a mountain goat. We eyed each other from opposite sides of a stream.

After both getting a good look, he turned tail and headed for higher ground. Thrilling! May your new week be a good one!




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