Tuesday, November 21, 2023

#325 / Looking Clearly At What's Happening


In an opinion column in the September 9, 2023, edition of The New York Times, Stephanie Muravchik and Jon A. Shields, both of whom teach at Claremont McKenna College, tell us that "Republicans in Wyoming See Clearly What's Happening." 

Ok. So, what's happening?

According to Shields and Muravchik, our American politics is becoming "nationalized." If this is true, that is a fundamental reversal of the "federal system" of government which was established in our Constitution. Muravchik and Shields don't think that this is a good thing. 

Hannah Arendt is my designated "guru," where political theory is concerned, and Arendt wouldn't think that this is a good thing, either. Arendt really liked that American commitment to federalism! According to Arendt (read On Revolution for the full story), the fact that there are so many separate political powers in the United States is a wonderful hedge against totalitarianism, which she believed was a huge threat to human liberty (read The Origins of Totalitarianism for the full story). 

According to the Shields-Muravchik commentary, the so-called "MAGA Republicans" are marching towards a full nationalization of American politics (which, of course, is consistent with our suspicion that the Trump brand of politics is "totalitarian" in its intentions). Luckily, though, and this is, again, according to Shields and Muravchik, Republican Party leaders in Wyoming are not really buying the move towards a nationalized politics with all of its totalitarian dangers. I hope they're right. 

For those of us who don't live in Wyoming, though, let's understand the basic message (coming to us from Arendt, and now from Shields and Muravchik): Diversity is good! Political differences are a "feature," not a "bug," when we think about good government. Arendt calls it "Plurality." Check out the picture from The Times commentary, above. We don't want citizens to have all their cultural and individual dissimilarities expunged, do we? I don't, at least! You probably don't, either.

Furthermore - just as a practical reminder - the ability to take effective political action is maximized at the so-called "lower" levels of government. Local government is actually the most "powerful" level of government, if "power" means the ability to take action and do things (which it does). 

It is easy to be seduced into the idea that we should focus our main attention on that government in Washington, D.C. Let's reconsider that!

One of the great things about "local" government (and even "state" government) is that you can actually make change happen at the local and state levels. But... to do that, of course, you need to get involved in politics and government yourself!

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