Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution to Win Elections (and How it can Reclaim its Conservative Roots) (2016) is of course a play on the book and slogan, Too Big to Jail. Though he explains why he deliberately parodied that title, it didn’t really quite make sense to me. I think he was more trading on the Jail slogan and twisted things to try to pretend it makes sense. Kind of like the entire conservative point of view! BTW, it is a fast read since it is so lacking in substance.
Fun to read though, actually, in part because it actually does as he says: he tries to be objective. Alas trying is not the same as doing, as Yoda has explained to us before. However. in fact, he actually makes some good points.
I thought his concern about the party running completely unqualified candidates was very accurate. His criticism of a number of aspects of the party are reasonable. But he still misrepresents reality as I know it. And he can’t resist unnecessary snipes, in particular referring to Jimmy Carter as a “peanut farmer” as if that was something disgraceful and shameful [in conservative minds] akin to an abortionist or homosexual.
I Dissent: Great Opposing Opinions in Landmark Supreme Court Cases by Mark Tushnet (2008)
Our constitutional tradition celebrates the great dissenters — John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, William O. Douglas. On one level, the reason is clear: out of step with the prevailing constitutional views, of their times, they were [sometimes] vindicated by history. The nation came to see the wisdom of their constitutional views, and the errors of the majorities that temporarily prevailed.
I added the [sometimes] because Scalia’s dissent is in two of the cases and I’m pretty sure when I get to them, he will be wrong, again. (His opinions always were wrong in MY opinion based on general principle!) So I decided I couldn’t wait and went to the last case first because it was a Scalia dissent.
Oddly, other cases have two justices listed in the table of contents as dissenting. However in the Scalia cases, Clarence (gag) Thomas was also listed in the chapter as joining in the dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, but not in the Table of Contents maybe because he wrote a separate dissent. Of course, now that Scalia is dead (RIH) it is a common joke that Thomas will not know how to vote anymore. Plus the mockery that after the many decades on the bench, he had NEVER SPOKEN during a case presented to the Supreme Court until Scalia died (2016).
In the preface, the author describes how the Constitution, once revered as a uniting force, has now become divisive along ideological lines. “People see in our governing document only what they wish to see. It is not a unifying force, as its authors had intended, but a wedge that widens the partisan divide.” A little bit later he makes the point that history cannot “be understood by treating the past as if it were the present. Much has happened since the founders’ time: national expansion on a shrinking planet, nuclear and biological warfare, Internet and broadcast technologies, and so on — more than two centuries of subsequent history. He gives a rather amusing anecdote to illustrate the changes.
Compare then and now. On October 15, 1789, President Washington set out from New York with only two aides and six servants to tour New England. In his diary, he chronicled the first day of the journey:
‘The road for the greater part, indeed the whole way, was very rough and stoney [sic], but the land strong, well covered with grass and a luxuriant crop of Indian corn intermixed with popions [pumpkins] which were ungathered in the fields. We met four droves of beef cattle for the New York market (about 30 in a drove) some of which were very fine — also a flock of sheep for the same place. We scarcely passes a farm house that did not abd. in geese.’
Washington was traveling through what is now THE BRONX, traversed by interstate highways and expressways, not stony roads, and home to some 1.4 million people packed tightly within apartments. If the country Washington observed was very different back then, so too was the manner in which he observed it, close up and literally on the ground, experiencing every stone in the road. He could meet his constituency directly, without intervention from an advance team, a press corps , or a small army of secret service agents. (p. xi, emphasis mine as anyone who has ever been to the Bronx will agree)
This link is to the 2000 edition, the one I am reading is 1992 but not as dated as one might think given that it begins at the beginning of America’s founding and all the information up to then and is extremely detailed and analyzed and described very well.
This book answers the many questions I have had over the years of how we ended up with an essentially two-party system that is run like two warring corporations for a monopoly of the United States government as the prize.
I knew that the Founding Fathers had not begun nor wanted political parties, but apparently not “until they began running parties themselves.” Thomas Jefferson was pro-party. Alexander Hamilton “associated parties with ‘ambition, avarice, personal animosity.'” I’m going to side with Hamilton on this point. James Madison “wrote in Federalist Number Ten of ‘the mischiefs of faction. John Adams expressed ‘dread’ toward ‘division of the republic into to great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.'” Now that was prescient!