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Seeing The Elephant in New York City
The Resistance reaches its apex, or its nadir
This is it everyone — this is not a drill. On the day in Gotham at The Spectator:
They have come from far and wide today to see the elephant in New York City. The #Resistance that promised so much from its dawning days, which turned the fever dreams of millions of Donald Trump-hating Americans into a cash machine for books, non-profits and cable news, has come to its apex. They’re actually doing it! They’re indicting the Orange Man. And the people are coming to town to see it.
The #Resistance has come a long way since Chuck Schumer told Rachel Maddow that then-President-elect Trump was “being really dumb” to attack the intelligence community which has “six ways from Sunday at getting back at you”. It has meandered through a series of heroes who fell short time and again. There was James Comey and Robert Mueller and Preet Bharara, there was Michael Avenatti and the Lincoln Project and a litany of Trump turncoats, from Manafort to Cohen to Omarosa. This parade of bizarre character took to late night-television, The View and the bookstores of America to hawk their wares to an eager hashtag army which dreamed of what was possible. It resulted in headlines that seem so laughable now, but were once written and discussed by people who pretend to be serious for a living: “Tom Arnold is the US president’s No 1 adversary. But can he find the Trump tapes?” is a personal favorite of mine.
Now, they have reached their one shining moment. No matter how thin, no matter how baseless, the former president will turn himself in to be booked on a litany of charges related to business reporting of expenses apparently related to payoffs directed to at least one woman, Stormy Daniels, in an effort to keep her quiet about a sexual relationship. Sex has been the way the left has targeted Trump the most, failing in every other sense to really chip away at his teflon exterior. No matter that there are a thousand other more meaningful and consequential failures to use against Trump — it is his personal predilections that have obsessed #Resistance types the most. They are more offended that he orders his steaks well-done than anything associated with Trump University. It is the brash buffoonery that frustrates them more than any actual grift.
This single-minded focus has driven many Americans into a bizarre and often unhealthy rage. For all the right-wing talk radio focus on Billary or Barack *Hussein!* Obama, the right never took on the type of single-minded obsession the #Resistance has adopted toward Trump — where they are willing to do far more to see him go down than what his fans would do to see him built up.
The delusional desire to do damage to Donald Trump and his most fervent supporters by any means necessary has led us to this bizarre moment: a real-life indictment, historically unprecedented in every respect, which as a political matter only seems to be boosting the man they claim to want to go away forever. This is an act of self-love for the #Resistance as masturbatory as it is foolish: even if everything goes their way, even if they get every legal break on a case that clearly needs it, it will not stop the former president from running, or from winning, the White House once again.
So knowing this, after all that, will it be worth it just for the mugshot of the man? Perhaps that’s all they wanted all along — to see the elephant, no matter the cost.
Smart Democrats Fear Elevating Trump
These should be celebratory times for Democrats. But as Donald Trump is set to get booked on Tuesday over a hush money payment he made to a porn star, a chunk of the party is growing anxious. An uneasy déjà vu has set in.
“Last time people were rooting for Donald Trump, he ended up president of the United States,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif). “We’ve seen this story before.”
The electoral potency of Trump is once more the central element of the Democratic Party’s internal debates. Back in 2016, Trump was supposed to have been the perfect opponent: too crude and way too outrageous to win a general election. As Hillary Clinton’s campaign geared up for that November’s race, many were rooting for Trump to be the GOP nominee, believing that he’d be the easiest Republican to beat.
It didn’t work out as planned. And the shock many in the party experienced because of it compelled them to pledge that they’d take a more sober-minded approach to the possibility of a Trump revival.
But with Trump once more eyeing the White House, the conventional wisdom is again forming that he would be the easiest Republican to defeat, owing to the myriad of legal problems he’s facing.
“I’d say in a general election Trump may be the weakest of the major GOP contenders,” said Democratic strategist Mark Longabaugh. “And he likely will take on more water over time as several of the other legal cases play out.”
Tommy McDonald, a Pennsylvania-based Democratic strategist who worked as a media consultant for Sen. John Fetterman’s campaign, conceded that the “universal consensus” was that Trump was “the weakest candidate” in the GOP field. But he said he’s personally not sure of it — given the passionate following he maintains and the historic underappreciation of his support.
Inside the White House, a more bullish view of the race has come into focus.
President Joe Biden’s most senior advisors have watched Trump’s GOP poll numbers surge, which have only reinforced their belief that the nation’s 45th president will stand as the Republicans’ nominee to be its 47th, according to four Biden allies not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.
And they believe Trump is also likely the Republicans’ most beatable nominee.
First and foremost, Biden world points to the 2020 election as the top reason for confidence in a potential rematch: We beat Trump once, they say, and will again.
Trump won in 2016 by the slimmest of margins, losing the popular vote to Clinton but squeaking out victories in a series of battleground states to capture the electoral college. He did so in part because swing voters, Independents and some late-deciders broke toward him after a series of October surprises, along with Clinton fatigue and a thirst for change. Some first-time voters and disaffected Democrats also went for Trump, while some on the left opted to stay home.
But four years later, many of those same swing voters broke away from him, weary of his chaos and frustrated by his handling of the COVID pandemic.
Biden advisors are confident that those swing voters are now permanently out of Trump’s reach, according to the four senior people. They have a difficult time imagining that a voter who went for Trump in 2016, but then ran away from him in 2020, would return to cast their ballot for the former president after the Jan. 6 insurrection, several criminal investigations and years of election denialism.
“What possibly would you like about what Trump has done since Election Day 2020?” one Biden aide mused.
Abortion Extremism Divides… The Left?
The abortion rights movement is split over how to restore access to the procedure as it prepares for a series of political fights across the country.
While a string of victories in red and purple states in the 2022 midterms convinced supporters that ballot initiatives are among their most powerful tools, internal divisions over what limits, if any, to keep on abortion is splitting the movement as efforts kick off in Missouri, Ohio, and South Dakota to put it to a popular vote this year and next.
The measures advancing in those states aim to restore the protections under Roe, which still allowed states to restrict abortions later in pregnancy, usually after the fetus could survive outside the womb. But some say undoing the Supreme Court’s June ruling isn’t enough, and want ballot measures that bar any restrictions on abortion.
“We would never advocate for a false or politically determined limit on abortion,” said Pamela Merritt, the Missouri-based executive director of Medical Students for Choice. “Viability is an arbitrary line. It’s a legacy of Roe that we don’t need to resurrect. And we know the language of viability can be manipulated by state legislatures, just as they are already trying to redefine what a child is or what rape is.”
The rift among progressives threatens to fracture the abortion-rights movement as it readies for costly ballot initiative fights that are likely to play central roles in coming state and federal elections.
In Missouri, the local Planned Parenthood affiliate recently quit the ballot effort because most of the nearly dozen versions activists submitted to state officials propose only protecting abortion access before the fetus is viable or until 24 weeks of pregnancy, while other versions would impose other restrictions, such as parental consent requirements.
“We have long said that Roe was never enough, especially for marginalized communities shouldering the hardest impact of abortion bans,” said Vanessa Wellbery, the vice president of policy and advocacy for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri. “We are deeply committed to rebuilding a system that ensures all people can access abortion and all providers can provide it without political or legislative interference.”
ChatGPT Invented Lies About This Professor
I received a curious email from a fellow law professor about research that he ran on ChatGPT about sexual harassment by professors. The program promptly reported that I had been accused of sexual harassment in a 2018 Washington Post article after groping law students on a trip to Alaska.
It was not just a surprise to UCLA professor Eugene Volokh, who conducted the research. It was a surprise to me since I have never gone to Alaska with students, The Post never published such an article, and I have never been accused of sexual harassment or assault by anyone.
When first contacted, I found the accusation comical. After some reflection, however, it took on a more menacing meaning.
Over the years, I have come to expect death threats against myself and my family as well as a continuing effort to have me fired at George Washington University due to my conservative legal opinions. As part of that reality in our age of rage, there is a continual stream of false claims about my history or statements…
AI promises to expand such abuses exponentially. Most critics work off biased or partisan accounts rather than original sources. When they see any story that advances their narrative, they do not inquire further.
What is most striking is that this false accusation was not just generated by AI but ostensibly based on a Post article that never existed.
Volokh made this query of ChatGPT: "Whether sexual harassment by professors has been a problem at American law schools; please include at least five examples, together with quotes from relevant newspaper articles."
The program responded with this as an example: 4. Georgetown University Law Center (2018) Prof. Jonathan Turley was accused of sexual harassment by a former student who claimed he made inappropriate comments during a class trip. Quote: "The complaint alleges that Turley made 'sexually suggestive comments' and 'attempted to touch her in a sexual manner' during a law school-sponsored trip to Alaska." (Washington Post, March 21, 2018)."
There are a number of glaring indicators that the account is false. First, I have never taught at Georgetown University. Second, there is no such Washington Post article. Finally, and most important, I have never taken students on a trip of any kind in 35 years of teaching, never went to Alaska with any student, and I've never been been accused of sexual harassment or assault.
In response to Volokh's question, ChatGPT also appears to have manufactured baseless accusations against two other law professors.
The Humanities Is Dead
From 2012 to 2020:
Tufts lost ~50% of humanities majors
Boston University lost 42% of humanities majors
Notre Dame lost 50% of humanities majors
The study of English and history at the college-level dropped by 33%
More than 60% of Harvard’s class of 2020 planned to enter tech, finance, and consulting jobs
It’s an anonymous interview subject, a “late-stage career English professor,” who drives a stake in the heart of the humanities when he tells author Nathan Heller:
The age of Anglophilia is over… I don’t think reading novels is now the only way to have a broad experience of the varieties of human nature or the ethical problems that people face.
It is this assumption - that the study of novels must necessarily offer a solution to a problem and not just a process with its own rewards - that has effectively ended the English Major. Blame Gen Z. Just like previous generations of college students, they want to make a difference. This time around, though, paying tens of thousands of dollars to be taught how to interpret books is seen as a hobby with no attributable outcome, not a career. College, an investment, must produce capital and careers are where one finds that capital. Capital is power and power propels purpose.
In this new understanding of humanities, passion is privilege and numbers are the truth. As Heller notes, one of the most popular classes at Harvard is now introductory statistics: enrollment rose from 90 students in 2005 to 700+ today. If my math is correct, that marks a 677.78% increase. Wow, what a graph.
The English Major is dead. Long live statistics, which can not err.
Masters of Anti-Mastery
To form a basis for the failure of the humanities, one can turn to French philosopher and politician Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), who, at age 26, visited the the United States of America for nine months in 1831 and produced two volumes of Democracy in America (1835, 1840).
Tocqueville, an aristocrat’s aristocrat whose great-grandfather was guillotined, analyzes democracy in muted wonder and notes that when everyone is equal, expertise is seen as both a threat and a new form of bondage. Americans are uncomfortable accepting any critic’s interpretation of events as superior to their own. This problem has only gotten worse as the internet has unlocked infinite interpretations. Americans don’t want to wrestle with nuance. We want to get to the conclusion, because we have careers to attend.
As Tocqueville notes:
Equality extends to some degree to intelligence itself. I do not think that there is a single country in the world where, in proportion to the population, there are so few ignorant and, at the same time, so few educated individuals as in America…. Almost all Americans enjoy a life of comfort and can, therefore, obtain the first elements of human knowledge. In America there are few rich people; therefore, all Americans have to learn the skills of a profession which demands a period of apprenticeship. Thus America can devote to general learning only the early years of life. At fifteen, they begin a career; their education ends most often when ours begins. If education is pursued beyond that point, it is directed only towards specialist subjects with a profitable return in mind. Science is studied as if it were a job and only those branches are taken up which have a recognized and immediate usefulness.
In much of Democracy in America, Tocqueville contends with his admiration for the American experiment and a concern that pure capitalism could lead to a stunted intellectual culture. If everyone can get an education, but the purpose of the education must be profit, who will be left to create odes of wonder and philosophies of the soul?
If we’re to believe Heller, students now take it for granted that all literature and the value of literature and the currency it provides is seen to be subjective and therefore objectively useless. No one can be the expert, because to be an expert is to contradict someone else’s lived experience of a work of art. Critics are offensive and erudition is obsolete. Students love statistics class because it is numbers they want to prove the reality they believe, not stories. It was the outbreak of COVID-19 when it became just how clear culture ceded control to the science of data and the worship of charts as royalty. Who can resist a truth when it is studded with the gems of numbers or presented with a blood-red line chart? Stories only mattered if they started with statistics.
In 2020, the adjustable chart became truth. Stories that contradicted the charts were shunned, ignored, or called into question. Numbers became feeling. Forecasts became virtue. Spreadsheets became our constitution.
Items of Interest
“Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.”
— Italo Calvino