Welcome to All

The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions.

George Washington (1783)

This week’s featured post is “‘America First!’ means China wins.” I’ve been working on this piece for a few weeks and I’m pleased with it. Take a look.

This week everybody was talking about the next Supreme Court nominee

who is supposed to be announced in a prime-time extravaganza tonight. (Don’t watch. It only encourages him.) It’s tempting to speculate about who Trump will name, but it seems silly when we’ll know so soon. It’s not like any of the names being discussed are significantly better than the others.

What kind of opposition the nominee will face is another question. Politico asks the question “Will Susan Collins Get Snookered Again?“, which kind of answers itself. The article explains what a senator with Collins’ professed beliefs could do if she had some iron in her spine.

Here’s how she can get what she wants: partner with red-state Democratic senators, and anyone else who’s willing, and jointly announce that they will not vote for any nominee who isn’t the result of bipartisan consultation, in advance.

Trump would have to scrap his vaunted judges list, which Collins has criticized as too heavily influenced by the conservative Federalist Society. Either he nominates a ninth justice who will hold the center, or it’s a 4-4 court until the president relents.

It’s a fun scenario to think about, but it’s not going to happen because of the whole iron-in-the-spine thing. (An aside: I happened to be in Portland Friday, when I ran in to Collins’ Democratic challenger, Zak Ringelstein, who was standing on the Congress Street sidewalk shaking hands. I know nothing about him, but he looks like an energetic young guy.)

and the swamp

Scott Pruitt has finally resigned.

In an administration where the President’s company benefits from massive foreign-government investments, the President owes hundreds of millions to foreign banks, and the President’s daughter and her husband make tens of millions while being presidential advisors (at least some of it due to concessions from the Chinese), it is still possible to go too far. That’s good to know.

Pruitt was the most blatantly corrupt member of Trump’s cabinet. He openly took valuable favors from lobbyists and granted them favors, apparently in return. He treated the EPA staff as his personal assistants and wasted millions of public dollars on himself. He is the subject of 13 ethical or legal investigations. He covered up his cozy relationships with polluting-industry lobbyists by “scrubbing” his published schedule to remove questionable meetings, which violates government transparency laws. He demoted or reassigned underlings who raised questions about any of this.

Most of this illegal and unethical activity has been public for a long time, but Trump didn’t seem to care. Pruitt was doing what Trump and many Trumpists wanted: re-orienting the EPA to protect polluters from the law rather than using the law to protect the environment from polluters. His corruption was an acceptable part of that package. (Pruitt’s deputy, a former vice president of the Washington Coal Club and lobbyist for energy companies, will continue his work.)

In his resignation letter to Trump, Pruitt admitted nothing and apologized for nothing, citing only “unrelenting attacks” on himself and his family that have “taken a sizable toll on all of us”. Obsequious to the end, Pruitt closed his letter with the kind of flattery that used to be anathema within the American government, but is all too common in this administration, where expressions of praise and personal thanks to the president are expected from both cabinet secretaries and religious leaders.

My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people. I believe you are serving as President today because of God’s providence. I believe that same providence brought me into your service. I pray as I have served you that I have blessed you and enabled you to effectively lead the American people. Thank you again Mr. President for the honor of serving you and I wish you Godspeed in all that you put your hand to.

For contrast, look at Hillary Clinton’s resignation letter as Secretary of State and the statement Eric Holder made when he resigned as Attorney General. Both cited the good work of the people they had managed. (Pruitt’s letter reads as if he had worked alone.) They thanked President Obama for the opportunity to serve the country, not Obama personally. Holder referred to Obama as “my friend”, not as a superior being or an instrument of God’s plan.

That attitude towards government service — that equal citizens work together for the country rather than under a divine-right King who “leads” the People and “makes decisions for” the People rather than serving them — is an American thing, not a partisan thing. Look at Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation letter as President Bush’s Secretary of Defense. He compliments Bush’s leadership and wishes him well, but his good feelings are primarily directed outward, not upward towards the Great Man:

It has been the highest honor of my long life to have been able to serve our country at such a critical time in our history and to have had the privilege of working so closely with the truly amazing young men and women in uniform.

That’s what Americans sound like. Let’s not forget.

and trade war

Trump’s trade war with the rest of the world (China, Europe, Canada) had mostly been a lot of bluster until this week.

The United States just after midnight on Friday made good on its threat to impose sweeping tariffs on Beijing, putting a 25 percent border tax on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods imported to the US. China responded with $34 billion of tariffs of its own on its imports from America.

It’s been two weeks now since Harley Davidson announced it was moving some of its production to Thailand to avoid European Union tariffs that were imposed in response to Trump’s tariffs on European steel and aluminum. Competing manufacturer Polaris may do the same.

One of the most worrisome things about the trade war is that it’s not clear what would end it. Getting-tough-on-trade seems to be its own goal. What concessions does Trump want before he will call it off? No one seems to know.

Meanwhile, most of the pain is being felt in parts of the country that supported Trump in 2016. US soybean prices have approached 10-year lows, prompting calls for a farm bail-out. Mexico has already started buying more grain from South America. Reuters examines a Missouri county that sees both sides: Its aluminum smelter plans to re-open, but its farmers are worried.

and immigration

For some reason the Trump administration can’t seem to reunite the families it broke up, in spite of an approaching court deadline to do so. Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee put it in terms anybody should be able to understand: “I’ve seen coat check windows operate with a better system.”

A federal court in San Diego has issued an order that

gives the government until Tuesday to reunify children younger than 5 with their parents, and until July 26 for older children.

The government has asked for more time in general. Friday, the judge said no, but acknowledged that he might agree to a looser deadline in specific cases, if some special factor made that reasonable.

The government still doesn’t seem to grasp that it has done something horrible and needs to make it right. For example, HHS wants to be let off the hook for finding parents who have already been deported and getting their children back to them, because that would be hard. A further revelation came from Gov. Inslee, who tweeted:

My office recently learned the shocking revelation from that reunification could mean placing a separated child with ANY long-term sponsor — regardless of whether it’s their parents, other family in the US, family back in their home country or in long-term foster care.

Having been careless about taking the kids away, the government now wants to be extra-careful about giving them back. It’s insisting on DNA tests to match parents and children. What will happen to adopted children or step-children is anybody’s guess, and it’s not clear what the government will do with this highly personal information going forward.

One fact bears repeating every time this story is discussed: Coming the the United States to seek asylum is not illegal. Our laws obligate us to give asylum-seekers a fair hearing, and there is no justification for treating them like criminals. The question isn’t whether they will obey our laws, but whether we will.

Conservatives like to pretend that their problem is only with illegal immigration, but that doesn’t explain the behavior of this administration. Friday, AP reported:

Some immigrant U.S. Army reservists and recruits who enlisted in the military with a promised path to citizenship are being abruptly discharged. … The service members affected by the recent discharges all enlisted in recent years under a special program aimed at bringing medical specialists and fluent speakers of 44 sought-after languages into the military. The idea, according to the Defense Department, was to “recognize their contribution and sacrifice.”

Instead, the Trump administration has abruptly raised the standards on background checks, which either the soldiers fail (because “they have relatives abroad”) or the soldiers get discharged because the checks can’t be completed in a timely fashion.

Also, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service is going after immigrants who are already citizens. A task force is trying to identify people who may have lied on their applications for citizenship, even if it happened decades ago. The New Yorker’s Masha Gessen describes what that can mean:

Back in 1989, I had to make a decision about whether to lie on my citizenship application. At the time, immigration law banned “aliens afflicted with sexual deviation,” among others suffering from “psychopathic personality,” from entry to the United States. I had come to this country as a fourteen-year-old, in 1981, but I had been aware of my “sexual deviation” at the time, and this technically meant that I should not have entered the country. I decided to append a letter to my citizenship application, informing the Immigration and Naturalization Service that I was homosexual but that I disagreed with the exclusion and would be willing to discuss the matter in court. …

My application was granted without my having to fight for it in court. I hadn’t thought about my naturalization for years, but I find myself thinking about it now, thankful for the near-accident of not having lied on my application.

Gessen thinks twice, and realizes that she might have to lie if she were doing her paperwork today.

Question 26 on the green-card application, for example, reads, “Have you EVER committed a crime of any kind (even if you were not arrested, cited, charged with, or tried for that crime)?” (Emphasis in the original.) The question does not specify whether it refers to a crime under current U.S. law or the laws of the country in which the crime might have been committed. In the Soviet Union of my youth, it was illegal to possess foreign currency or to spend the night anywhere you were not registered to live. In more than seventy countries, same-sex sexual activity is still illegal. On closer inspection, just about every naturalized citizen might look like an outlaw, or a liar.

It seems more and more obvious that the primary goal of Trump’s immigration policy across-the-board is to delay the day when whites become a minority in the US. Talk about jobs or crime or security risks is just a smokescreen.

and the continuing discussion of civility

Here’s one contribution.

And Katha Pollitt at The Nation points out that the owner of the Red Hen Restaurant just gave the wrong reason for refusing service to Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Instead of basing her objection on the discomfort of her LGBT staffers, she should simply have said serving Sanders was against her religion. She could have quoted Psalm 101:7: “No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.”

“Religion,” Pollitt observes, “gives you freedom of speech denied to your opponents.” At least if you’re Christian.

Claiming that religion gives you the right to harm your fellow Americans probably works best if you are Christian. Only Christians get to impose their religion on others. A Hindu wouldn’t get very far with a lawsuit to shut down the beef industry.

And if you want to be uncivil, it helps to be conservative.

No matter how vulgar, gross, threatening, cruel, illegal, and insane the right becomes, it’s always the left that is warned against piping up too loudly and in the wrong way. It’s like the old Jewish joke: Three Jews stand before a firing squad. Each is offered a blindfold. The first Jew takes a blindfold. The second Jew takes a blindfold. The third Jew refuses the blindfold. The second Jew elbows him and says, “Moshe, take a blindfold—don’t make trouble.”

but I noticed the Republican trip to Russia

Something very odd happened this week: A delegation of seven Republican senators and one Republican House member visited Russia over the Fourth of July break, hoping to talk to Putin. Putin was too busy to fit them into his schedule, so they met with their counterparts in the Russian Duma.

There’s some disagreement about the topics of discussion and the emphasis. Senator Richard Shelby sounded conciliatory, almost deferential.

“I’m not here today to accuse Russia of this or that or so forth,” Shelby told Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin. “I’m saying that we should all strive for a better relationship.”

In other words: Let’s forget all about the fact that you’ve been waging an information war against us and our allies, and just move on from here. It’s hard to imagine a weaker message. It’s like a bullied junior high kid saying “I’m willing to overlook that you’ve been stealing my lunch money. Let’s both strive for a better relationship.”

The Russians certainly didn’t seem impressed.

Duma member Vyacheslav Nikonov, on the other hand, said he had met with many American lawmakers in years past and that this meeting “was one of the easiest ones in my life.” The question of election interference, he said, was resolved quickly because “the question was raised in a general form. One shouldn’t interfere in elections — well, we don’t interfere.”

A few of the Republicans have tried to portray their message as much more stern. Senator Kennedy of Louisiansa

described the meetings as “damn frank, very, very, very frank, no holds barred.”

“I asked our friends in Russia not to interfere in our elections this year,” Kennedy said. “I asked them to exit Ukraine and allow Ukraine to self-determine. I asked for the same thing in Crimea. I asked for their help in bringing peace to Syria. And I asked them not to allow Iran to gain a foothold in Syria.”

I think it’s telling that Kennedy described himself as “asking our friends” rather than demanding that enemies stop attacking us. Senator Moran of Kansas told NPR:

There is no way that a Russian official, the people that we met with, could come away from those meetings without believing that we sincerely believe [election meddling] happened. We believe we have the proof that it happened, and that if anything is going to improve, it involves stopping what’s occurred to date.

But whatever was said, coming as a partisan group was very unusual, and that by itself sent a weak message. (By coincidence, I just finished reading John McCain’s recent book The Restless Wave. He tells many stories of being on foreign trips with Democratic senators like Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton. Traveling in bipartisan groups is the norm. Partisan groups larger than two or three senators are almost unheard of.) In December, Republican Senators Johnson of Wisconsin and Barrasso of Wyoming cancelled a trip to Russia when the Russians refused to give a visa to Democratic Senator Shaheen of New Hampshire. That sent a powerful message that Americans stand together, and that Russia can’t exploit our partisan differences.

This trip sent the opposite message: Republicans are willing to seek their own relationship with Russia, independent of the national interest.Of course, the Republican senators’ trip is just a prelude to the Trump/Putin summit in Helsinki next Monday, when the two leaders will meet with no one present but their interpreters. Meeting without advisors present is also very unusual, especially for a president who has so little foreign-policy experience and such sketchy knowledge of the issues between the two countries. They spoke privately once before, last summer at a G-20 dinner in Germany, where no other Americans were involved and only Putin’s interpreter was used.

There’s been a lot of speculation about why they would meet this way, but I have an interpretation that explains everything: Putin is giving Trump his annual performance review.

and you also might be interested in …

Trump is still working to sabotage ObamaCare. And he still has no plans to replace it with anything.

As we celebrated the 4th of July, a record low percentage of Americans reported that they are proud of their country.

In May, the White House released “President Donald J. Trump’s Blueprint To Lower Drug Prices“. So far, the drug industry isn’t cooperating.

The across-the-board increases cast doubt on whether Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar can pressure manufacturers to voluntarily drop prices without the threat of specific consequences.

One of the mysteries I’ve been studying in recent months is how Evangelicals manage to keep supporting Trump in spite of (1) his personal life contradicting all their standards of good character, and (2) his policies contradicting all the teachings of Jesus. Useful input on this question comes from John Fea, a historian at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.

Fea argues that Evangelical support for Trump arises from projecting a religious narrative onto American history: The US is a Christian nation with a divinely appointed destiny.

Ever since the founding of the republic, a significant number of Americans have supposed that the United States is exceptional because it has a special place in God’s unfolding plan for the world. Since the early 17th century founding of the Massachusetts Bay colony by Puritans, evangelicals have relished in their perceived status as God’s new Israel—His chosen people. America, they argued, is in a covenant relationship with God.

Like much of the Evangelical worldview, this idea is totally non-Biblical. (You’d have to do some serious stretching of the text to find some mention of America in the Bible.) It’s also false history. But Evangelicals have found their own pseudo-historians (David Barton being the most prominent) to promote the belief that the Founders intended to create the new Israel.

So why don’t real historians dispel all this nonsense?

We do.

We have.

But countering bad history with good history is not as easy as it sounds. David Barton and his fellow Christian nationalist purveyors of the past are well-funded by Christian conservatives who know that the views of the past they are peddling serve their political agenda. Barton has demonized Christian intellectuals and historians as sheep in wolves’ clothing. They may call themselves Christians on Sunday morning, but, according to Barton, their “world view” has been shaped by the secular universities where they earned their Ph.Ds. Thanks to Barton, many conservative evangelicals do not trust academic and professional historians—even academic and professional historians with whom they share a pew on Sunday mornings.

If you read the comments on Fea’s article, you’ll fine abuse from several Evangelical commenters. All of which proves Carl Sagan’s point:

One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.

No matter how low my opinion of this administration drops, I still get surprised sometimes: The Trump delegation at the World Health Organization strong-armed several small nations out of sponsoring a resolution to encourage breast-feeding.

Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes. Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.

… The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced. … Health advocates scrambled to find another sponsor for the resolution, but at least a dozen countries, most of them poor nations in Africa and Latin America, backed off, citing fears of retaliation, according to officials from Uruguay, Mexico and the United States.

You know who finally stepped up to submit the resolution? Russia. For whatever reason, Trump never threatens Russia. (It would probably hurt his performance review.) So they get to be the good guys in this story.

and let’s close with something speculative

Inquiring minds want to know: Did Mary Poppins go to Hogwarts?

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  • Abby  On July 9, 2018 at 11:55 am

    “Also, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service is going after immigrants who are already citizens.” Please please please can we find a way to include Melania in this? It’s pretty clear that she first came to the US on a tourist visa, and then broke the law be getting modelling work here. She would have had to report this on her green card and citizenship applications, and odds are that she didn’t, meaning that she broke the law another several times. The public embarrassment of having his wife deported is the kind of news that might actually get people’s attention.

    • Larry Benjamin  On July 10, 2018 at 8:28 pm

      The photographer she worked with claims he didn’t pay her, so she wouldn’t have violated her visa requirements.

  • canek  On July 9, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    Doug, as a Mexican, I’m a little offended; not even a single mention of the historic election we just had in Mexico, where AMLO won with 53% of the votes? That WILL affect US politics, at least a little.

    • Anonymous  On July 9, 2018 at 1:06 pm

      There is a mention of the election in Mexico in this week’s featured post.

    • weeklysift  On July 9, 2018 at 1:17 pm

      A brief mention. It deserved more. So did the problems of Merkel’s government in Germany, and how Brexit is going in the UK.

  • James  On July 9, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    I’ve heard the reason Pruitt was ousted is because he had the temerity to let it be known that he was angling for the AG position.

  • knadles  On July 11, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    Some comments in your post touched on something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while now: the tug-of-war between the American democratic system and the notion of a divine king who leads the people. We’re seeing a surprising amount of support for the latter.

    On one level, this is literally an ancient argument. Even the most conservative Greek poleis were generally not led by one man, but by an oligarchy of aristocrats. And throughout its history, Athens, the first true liberal democracy, always retained an aristocracy that sought to regain power and opposed reforms. Although we lack a _literal_ aristocracy in the United States, we have developed a _virtual_ aristocracy with most of the trappings: hereditary wealth and power, clear class distinction, and recurring examples of “we’re more important and educated; we know what’s best.” I can’t claim to know all of history, just a few select bits, but it’s possible that the rise of an aristocratic class is a predictable evolution in most political systems, and something that must continually be guarded against. I’m guessing the earliest aristocrats of prehistory didn’t start out as ordained cavemen, they were simply better hunters and gatherers who achieved whatever passed for wealth in their tribal units, and over time used that to their (and their offspring’s) advantage.

    The larger question we all keep returning to is, why do poorer voters vote against their interests? Why do they support even a virtual aristocracy that seeks to exclude them? A lot of the articles I read suggest that people have been “snowed”; that they’ve been bought off with promises from leaders and will eventually become disillusioned as their fortunes wane even more. These arguments suppose that the Trump voter will eventually shift away from him, and the ones that don’t will stick around simply because they married him and refuse to admit they made a mistake.

    I’d like to suggest a different theory. I think everything that we see right now—the rise of aristocracy, the search for a divine leader, the embrace of one’s “place” in society—has been part of the cultural wiring of America from day 1. It’s just been subtle enough that most of us were able to ignore it for a few hundred years.

    The United States, and to some degree Western society in general, is the heir to not one but two cultural traditions, and those traditions are and have always been at odds with each other. On the one hand, you have the Greek/Roman tradition, which could also be called democratic/republican (small d and r). This system started in Athens and says in essence, no one is better than anyone else. Yes, some people have more, and some people may be “higher born” (whatever that means), but in the end we’re all subject to the law, we all get one vote, we all sit on the same jury and judge our peers equally. We’re all expected to have a certain amount of common sense and responsibility.

    On the other hand, we have a biblical Hebrew tradition that says we are all subject to a divine ruler. At the top level, this is God the Father, from whom all things derive. Beneath Him are the earthly rulers, all of whom exist on some level through His fiat (Romans 13 and 90 percent of the Old Testament). By extension, the ruler’s ministers are also ordained by God, and so anything they do is on some level moral and acceptable.

    The founders of the United States rebelled against the second tradition…at least the divine human ruler part…and embraced the first. Through their example, we inherited a nation that valued the existence and beneficence of God, but looked past literal interpretations of the Bible when they conflicted with scientific evidence (another Greek/Roman trait). Our citizens were expected to be active participants in the political process. We set up public schools to ensure their education and value to society. We encouraged them to vote (free men only, at first, but the principle was still somewhat radical). And fundamentally, our rulers were never supposed to be our rulers at all; simply representatives appointed by society (with authority derived from that society) to perform certain tasks, then step away when the tasks had been completed. At least in theory, no one was above the law.

    In recent years, we’ve seen that shift. The divine leader concept has always been just beneath the surface, and a lot of people are very comfortable with it. Obedience to the law of the church, the house, and the state has been part of their lives since before they were even born. Behavior and acting appropriately are the keys to this culture.

    Of course, what does acting appropriately mean? If you listen to Jesus, it’s taking care of your neighbor, paying your taxes, not being judgmental. But the _words _of Jesus are less important to this culture than the fact that He exists at all; that a ruler exists, and the primary imperative is to _behave_ yourself. Many of us (even me) were taught this at an early age, and I didn’t come from a severely conservative background.  

    What does behave mean? What does obey mean? First and foremost, it opposes change. You can’t change when the law is immutable. Civil rights is change. Homosexuality is change. Opposing the government is change, particularly when it’s a government that tells you the leader is ordained by God to protect you. A black president is change. Islam is change. Atheism is change.

    For a long time, God was the only divine leader in the United States, and one could worship Him (or not) as one saw fit. Early American leaders went to church but put their lives on the line for democracy. Now, the Greek/Roman tradition seems to be taking a back seat to the Hebrew, at least in some segments of society. People in these subcultures will give lip service to the concept of liberty, but what they really want is a God the Father figure telling them (and their perceived enemies) what to do. Since they’re aligned on the side of God, he’s not going to limit them, but he will limit the actions of everyone else.  

    My argument is that on some level this has always been there. This isn’t even an original observation on my part. The shocking part is that most of us were able to ignore the influence America’s “other” cultural tradition holds.

    I could offer theories as to why this is happening now. Maybe for the first time Americans sense that they may be on the waning side of history. Jobs don’t pay what they used to, infrastructure is crumbling, nuclear weapons and giant armies are less important. It’s difficult to accept change and adapt. When water flooded a primitive village, our ancestors blamed their own actions. Maybe on some level we’re still trying to appease the river god.

    Just wanted to get that out there. I hope I haven’t wasted your time. And it’s pretty off the cuff so please excuse that it’s probably not as clear as it could be. I enjoy your postings and look forward to them every week. Found your blog a few years ago after a Google search during some noise about Confederate monuments.

    Thank you,



    • Larry Benjamin  On July 11, 2018 at 1:03 pm

      I’ve never heard that explanation before, but it makes sense. It gives context to the complaint from liberals that conservatives are “authoritarian;” this explains why.

      The Declaration of Independence definitely was crafted to provide a counter-argument to the “divine right of kings” by arguing how George III was failing to fulfill his obligations, and that the “creator” had also endowed the people with “inalienable rights” that were just as important as George III’s divinely-granted right to rule.

    • weeklysift  On July 13, 2018 at 8:26 am

      I have to throw in a bit of political correctness: Given the recent rise in anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories about Jews, I’m reluctant to refer to anything as “Hebrew” unless actual Jews are pushing it. But I know what you mean. I have heard a similar idea referred to as the Athens/Jerusalem tug-of-war within Christianity, but that’s usually about theology rather than politics. (A lot of Christian belief about the soul and so forth comes from Plato, especially as discussed in “Phaedo”.)

      The search for the true king is a mythic trope with deep roots. (China has had the concept of the “Will of Heaven”. The nation is fundamentally healthy when the Emperor reflects the Will of Heaven. If a revolution successfully establishes a new dynasty, it shows that the Will of Heaven has shifted.) Democracy is about the People finding their way. That’s a subtly different notion than finding the true leader who will show us the way.

      My version of the conflict you’re describing is between Democracy and a National Identity, which we see today in the difference between American citizens and “real Americans”, who are straight English-speaking white Christians. As long as a comfortable majority fits the description of the National Identity, there is no conflict with Democracy: In the idealized 1950s, for example, straight English-speaking white Christians were the “real Americans”, and they held a substantial voting majority, so in either vision of the country they organized things the way they wanted.

      More and more now, though, people who think of themselves as “real Americans” see themselves getting outvoted by those who aren’t real Americans. So they long for some force outside of Democracy to come and set things right. (This is also why the “illegal” trope is so powerful for them: illegal immigrants, fraudulent voters. The power of the non-real-Americans OUGHT to be illegal, they believe, so they credit someone who tells them it IS illegal.) The divinely chosen true king is a natural vehicle for that desire.

      • Larry Benjamin  On July 13, 2018 at 8:57 am

        That bothered me too. Although, Greek philosophy has had a tremendous effect on Jewish thought from the time the two cultures first encountered each other 2500 years ago, where Greek views exerted an attractive influence that the ancient priesthood took steps to counter. The war commemorated by Hanukkah was an early example of this, as Christopher Hitchens pointed out, was less a war of independence and more a civil war between traditional and Hellenized Jews. Ironically, most American Jews today would be much closer to Athenian democracy in their personal philosophy than the “Hebrew” divine right of kings view.

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