So, I’ve got four open Washington Post articles and it’s just Monday and I’ve got some Political Science to do.  So…

1) EJ Dionne on the Republicans’ war on public life:

How did we get a government of this sort? For decades, our country has been witness to a war on public life. Legitimate dissatisfaction with government has turned into contempt for government itself and a denial of the indispensability of politics.

We value expertise from our doctors, nurses, engineers and scientists. But when it comes to government, there is a popular assumption that those who spend their lives mastering the arts of administration, politics and policymaking must be up to no good. This inclination, by the way, is prevalent in other democracies, too.

It is an attitude that leads voters to mistake inexperience for purity and outsider status (often, as in Trump’s case, a feigned outsiderism) for an exceptional understanding of the people’s wishes.

It has turned the word “politician” into an epithet, even though most of our best presidents (Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt especially) have been politicians through and through. The cliched and supposedly high-minded distinction between “a politician” and “a statesman” was always wrong. It’s coming back to haunt us.

And viewing our civil servants as mere timeserving “bureaucrats” fails to appreciate the contributions they make and the extent to which our government, in comparison with so many others, has been remarkably light on corruption.

The danger is that we will suffer all the costs the Trump era imposes without learning any of the lessons it teaches.

Yes, democracy can be frustrating. Our leaders have made big mistakes. Power and wealth are concentrated into too few hands. But repairing our problems requires citizens willing to engage in public life, not shun it, and people in government who respect the work they are asked to undertake.

2) A couple of Army infantrymen on the fact that having a gun gives you a weapon, but not necessarily the courage to use it:

So how do you test for courage? And how do you build it? There is a tendency to think that only courageous people will seek the job of protectors, servants of the community and warfighters for their country.  This is more likely to be true when the danger of the job is apparent. A school resource officer — a law enforcement officer who is there to guard a school — is not exactly on the front lines in the war against violent criminals. But even in the case of military personnel, the number for whom direct combat is an obvious part of the job is small.

In times of peace or when only a very small percentage of the military is engaged in combat, it is easy to forget the realities. The Army has experienced this forgetfulness many times. When the military was called up for the first Gulf War, for example, hundreds of soldiers did not show up to deploy. In 2004, a fuel transportation unit refused a mission to deliver fuel because it was too dangerous. The mission was carried out by another unit, with no casualties. Although the members of the 507th Maintenance Unit — which included Pvt. Jessica Lynch, who was briefly taken prisoner in Iraq before she was rescued — did not shirk their duties, their almost complete lack of fighting skills when ambushed in 2003 reinforced the lesson: Peacetime training does not always do a good job of preparing people mentally for combat.

3) Paul Waldman, “Stop wringing your hands about the battles among Democrats.”  Hell, yeah.  Of course, I teach my students that one of the most pervasive real media bias is the deisre to emphasize conflict.  Democrats are just fine.

Let’s take a look around. We have seen some high-profile primary challenges, but they really reflect the fact that 2018 is a year in which the party’s base is particularly energized. So this is the time for liberals to rid themselves of someone like Rep. Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, one of the most conservative Democrats in the House (he opposes abortion rights and voted against the Affordable Care Act, among other things) who represents a district Hillary Clinton won by 15 points. While Lipinski retains House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s support, his opponent, Marie Newman, is backed by many parts of the Democratic establishment, such as Emily’s List and the Illinois chapter of the Service Employees International Union, in addition to prominent Democrats such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Reps. Luis V. Gutiérrez (Ill.) and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.).

In other words, while Lipinski warns that the opposition to him represents a self-destructive tea party of the left, the bid to unseat him actually seems like a low-risk strategy to improve the ideological unity of the party’s representatives in Congress. If Lipinski represented a red district, would he be getting the same kind of strong challenge? Probably not. You can say the same about Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who is being challenged by state senator Kevin de León. At the moment this looks like the only strong primary challenge to any of the 25 Senate Democrats, and it’s happening in a state all but guaranteed to elect a Democrat. There’s a strong argument that Feinstein is far too conservative for the state she represents, not to mention the fact that if she wins, she’ll be 91 years old at the end of her next term. But de León’s candidacy doesn’t really risk anything.

One more example: If liberals were imposing rigid ideological purity tests, they wouldn’t be supporting Conor Lamb, who is running in a special election that takes place next week. Trump won this southwestern Pennsylvania district by 20 points, and Lamb is the kind of Democrat who could win there even if he isn’t a liberal’s dream: He’s pro-union but pro-gun (though he supports improving background checks); he’s “personally opposed” to abortion but pro-choice as a matter of policy; and he supports shoring up the Affordable Care Act rather than moving to single-payer. Lamb has raised a huge amount of money, mostly in small-dollar contributions, and there are few if any liberals decrying his nomination, because they realize he’s about the best Democrats can do in a district like that…

The Democratic Party as a whole is undoubtedly moving left, and there are certainly going to be candidates in some places who test the willingness of general election voters to support liberal positions. But there are far fewer primary challenges than you might have expected, and the point doesn’t seem to making Democratic representatives terrified of straying from dogma the way the Tea Party did to Republicans. [emphasis mine]

4) And, lastly, no matter what Trump and other politicians claim to fool their voters based on xenophobia, you just can’t get native born Americans to work in some pretty awful jobs like meat-processing plants:

And yet, no one seemed to believe the Cactus plant would be filled anytime soon with American workers. People here were not even sure they were American jobs in the first place. At least not since the Vietnamese and Laotians showed up in the late 1970s, a few years after the plant opened.

“Cactus wouldn’t exist without the plant,” said the city manager, Aldo Gallegos, who grew up in the town after his parents moved from Arizona in 1992 to work for Swift. He estimates that about half of all floor workers are refugees and that half are Latino, mostly immigrants.

“The plant didn’t skip a beat,” Gallegos said. “Everyone’s got to eat steak.”

Workers who hang on at the unionized plant earn wages that average more than $17 an hour, in addition to health benefits and free language classes, making it one of the best-paying jobs in the United States for someone who speaks little or no English.


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