key reports & Essential Readings
The issues listed just below have been and probably still are beyond the capacity of this country’s leaders to understand, let alone resolve. At this point in our history, each of these issues is confoundingly complex, characterized by a variety causal dynamics so impenetrable that none of our elected leaders or appointed officials has demonstrated that they can legitimately claim to fully understand what’s cause and what’s effect. As a result, it seems as if they’re neither usefully defining these issues in their full complexity, nor are they offering us the kinds of complex solutions that seem like they would effectively address these issues. The reports, books, and articles offered below are informative and thought provoking, posted to support the work you’re doing to get ready for the 2020 Presidential Election.
Public Discourse in America
T his document describes the competencies which citizens of a democratic society need to acquire if they are going to participate effectively in what this reports defines as a “culture of democracy.” The competencies offered are those that citizens must both possess and display if they’re going to live peacefully together with others in a culturally diverse democratic society. These competencies are offer as a guide for active participation and as a model that can inform educational decision making and planning, helping educational systems to be harnessed for the preparation of effective 21st century citizens.
In December 1996, Judith Rodin, President of the University of Pennsylvania, convened the Penn National Commission on Society, Culture, and Community. Over the next three years, members of the Commission gathered at plenary meetings in Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles to discuss “the declining quality and effectiveness of public discourse, the increasing coarseness of public culture, and the growing separation and isolation of groups and individuals in the United States and abroad.” Public Discourse in America; Conversation and Community in the 21st Century is a product of these discussions. To be sure, much has happened in American public culture since the volume’s publication in 2003, and even more has happened since the Penn National Commission first convened in 1999. But most, if not all, of the hazards and horizons of American public discourse considered in this book remain, and many of these issues continue to inspire and intersect the work of those who are concerned with civic responsibility today. For this reason, Public Discourse in America is worth the read.
Voters and other plaintiffs in North Carolina and Maryland filed suits challenging their States’ congressional districting maps as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. The North Carolina plaintiffs claimed that the State’s districting plan discriminated against Democrats, while the Maryland plaintiffs claimed that their State’s plan discriminated against Republicans. The plaintiffs alleged violations of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Elections Clause, and Article I, §2. The District Courts in both cases ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and the defendants appealed directly to this Court.
Held: Partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts.
Widespread voter suppression—particularly against historically marginalized groups—is a reoccurring problem in the United States. Each election cycle, untold numbers of eligible Americans are prevented from voting due to barriers in the voter registration process, restrictions on casting ballots, and discriminatory and partisan-rigged district maps. Voter suppression measures can differ by state and even by individual county. And while some voter suppression measures actively seek to discriminate against certain groups, others result from innocent administrative errors and glitches. Regardless of its form or intent, however, voter suppression is relentlessly effective in preventing voting-eligible Americans from contributing to the electoral process.
The 2018 IPCC report is the most up-to-date and comprehensive explanation of the science of climate change and the future of Earth. 91 lead authors and 133 contributing authors from 40 countries assessed 30,000 scientific papers and made over 42,000 comments during the review process. Their findings shouldn’t be ignored…
The latest IPPC report from the world’s climate scientists makes clear the size of the challenge if the world is to stay below the global warming limit hoped for in the Paris climate agreement. Unfortunately, with current trends we are likely to cross this threshold within the next two decades because we are already two-thirds of the way there…
The U.S. Government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment recently concluded that the impacts of global climate change are already affecting the US. This the report says is clearly evidenced by the growing number of intense wildfire seasons, droughts, heatwaves, and floods that the country has been experiencing, and that these impacts will only get worse in the future unless urgent action is taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions. It notes that annual average temperatures across the US have risen by 1.8°F since the beginning of the twentieth century. This 1,600-page report directly connects climate change to ongoing issues that are impacting human lives and resources in the US, such as this month’s devastating wildfires in California, declining water levels in the Colorado River Basin, and the spread of Lyme disease and other vector-borne diseases like West Nile and Zika. In other words, no part of the country is immune to the impacts of a warming world…
The age of climate panic is here. Last summer, a heat wave baked the entire Northern Hemisphere, killing dozens from Quebec to Japan. Some of the most destructive wildfires in California history turned more than a million acres to ash, along the way melting the tires and the sneakers of those trying to escape the flames. Pacific hurricanes forced three million people in China to flee and wiped away almost all of Hawaii’s East Island…The planet is getting warmer in catastrophic ways. Fear may be the only thing that saves us…
Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, in the House of Representatives on February 7, 2019, [represents that] the October 2018 report entitled ‘‘Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 oC’’ by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the November 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment report found that—
(1) human activity is the dominant cause of ob- served climate change over the past century;
Justice in America
America almost certainly is at an inflection point. Polarization and mistrust are apparently deeply embedded in our cultural dan, and most recently are seemingly are running rampant and threatening to irrevocably divide an already fractured society. Among the source issues that are embedded in this tumult are race, policing and justice. Which means that the operative question for all of us is “what does justice in America today look like? What is the state of the American Justice system -- are police and the communities they serve really at odds or are they coming together? Are both true, but in different parts and segment of our country? These articles and reports hold some interesting insights.
One human wave after another moves through Mexico towards the southern border of the United States where they seek asylum and work in the United States. In the meantime, political battles rage over security on America’s southern border and tensions rise. President Trump has declared a state of emergency to deal with what he sees as a real security crisis. The Democrats are gearing up for resisting his declaration, which may lead to protracted litigations in American courts.
Since the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS) has responsibility to carry out two statutory requirements: 1) to collect and disseminate to Congress and the public data and information useful in evaluating the social, economic, environmental, and demographic impact of immigration laws; and 2) to establish standards of reliability and validity for immigration statistics collected by the Department’s operational Components.
The United States has more immigrants than any other country in the world. Today, more than 40 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country, accounting for about one-fifth of the world’s migrants in 2016. In addition to being large, the U.S. immigrant population is also very diverse, with just about every country in the world represented. Pew’s Research Center regularly publishes statistical portraits of the nation’s foreign-born population, which include historical trends since 1960. Based on these portraits, Pew attempts to answer some key questions about the U.S. immigrant population.
Two sexes have never been enough to describe human variety. Not in biblical times and not now. Before we knew much about biology, we made social rules to control sexual diversity. Today no single biological measure unassailably places each and every human being into one of two categories — male or female.
Sex and gender pervade nearly every aspect of our lives. Each time we use a public restroom, shop for clothes, or fill out a form, we are insistently reminded that we must be either male or female; men or women; boys or girls. Even things that ostensibly have nothing to do with sex or gender—what we eat, for example, or the books we read—are often sold to us as if they and we are necessarily either feminine or masculine.
Capitalism & Socialism
World-renowned economist Paul Collier provides a candid diagnosis of the failures of capitalism and a pragmatic and realistic vision for how we can repair it. Deep rifts are tearing apart the fabric of the United States and other Western societies: thriving cities versus rural counties, the highly skilled elite versus the less educated, wealthy versus developing countries. As these divides deepen, we have lost the sense of ethical obligation to others that was crucial to the rise of post-war social democracy. So far these rifts have been answered only by the revivalist ideologies of populism and socialism, leading to the seismic upheavals of Trump, Brexit, and the return of the far-right in Germany. We have heard many critiques of capitalism but no one has laid out a realistic way to fix it. Perhaps Collier’s assessment is a sep in this direction…
National Security & Foreign Policy
This past January, the Director of National Intelligence for the United States, Dan Coats testified before Congress, providing it with his agency’s best estimate of current threats facing the United States. Essential, this reports asserts that threats to US national security will expand and diversify in the coming year, driven in part by China and Russia as they respectively compete more intensely with the United States and its traditional allies and partners. This competition cuts across all domains, involves a race for technological and military superiority, and is increasingly about values. Russia and China seek to shape the international system and regional security dynamics and exert influence over the politics and economies of states in all regions of the world and especially in their respective backyards.
Last year, the Director of National Intelligence for the United States, Dan Coats testified before Congress, providing it with his agency’s best estimate of current threats facing the United States. In his testimony, Coats asserted that competition among countries will increase in the coming year as major powers and regional aggressors exploit complex global trends while adjusting to new priorities in US foreign policy. The risk of interstate conflict, including among great powers, is higher than at any time since the end of the Cold War. The most immediate threats of regional interstate conflict in the next year come from North Korea and from Saudi- Iranian use of proxies in their rivalry. At the same time, the threat of state and nonstate use of weapons of mass destruction will continue to grow.
This year, the Director of National Intelligence for the United States, Dan Coats testified before Congress, providing it with his agency’s best estimate of what, moving forward, America’s foreign policy strategy should be. His assessment suggests this country’s strategic environment is changing rapidly, and that the United States is facing an increasingly complex and uncertain world in which threats are becoming ever more diverse and interconnected. While the IC remains focused on confronting a number of conventional challenges to U.S. national security posed by our adversaries, advances in technology are driving evolutionary and revolutionary change across multiple fronts. The IC will have to become more agile, innovative, and resilient to deal effectively with these threats and the ever more volatile world that shapes them. The increasingly complex, interconnected, and transnational nature of these threats also underscores the importance of continuing and advancing IC outreach and cooperation with international partners and allies.
The international system—as constructed following the Second World War—will be almost unrecognizable by 2025 owing to the rise of emerging powers, a globalizing economy, an historic transfer of relative wealth and economic power from West to East, and the growing influence of nonstate actors. By 2025, the international system will be a global multipolar one with gaps in national power continuing to narrow between developed and developing countries. Concurrent with this shift in power among nation-states, the relative power of various nonstate actors—including businesses, tribes, religious organizations, and criminal networks—is increasing…
Patriarchy & white supremacy
The Anti-Defamation League, in a new report, details how hate groups feed off of each other. They describe how the unsettling rise of radical misogynist men seems to be getting worse — and too often to going unchecked. So today, in a report first provided to Cosmopolitan.com, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism details its new classification of misogyny as radical hatred in the same vein as white supremacy. “ADL considers misogyny a dangerous and underestimated component of extremism, and this report marks the start of an ongoing effort to investigate the ways in which people in the white supremacist, incel and MRA orbits feed and inform one another’s poisonous hatred of women,”
Sociologist Michael Kimmel is one of the leading writers on men and masculinity. He’s spent hundreds of hours in the company of America's angry white men--from white supremacists to men's rights activists to young students--in pursuit of a comprehensive diagnosis of their fears, anxieties, and rage. Kimmel embeds this increase in anger in the seismic economic, social, and political shifts that have been transforming the American landscape: Downward mobility, increasingly challenged racial and gender norms, and vast numbers of men and women tenaciously clinging to an anachronistic ideology of masculinity has left many men feeling betrayed and bewildered. Raised to expect unparalleled social and economic privilege, Kimmel asserts that white men are suffering today from what he calls and "aggrieved sense of entitlement": a belief that the benefits that white men have long believed were their due are now being snatched away from them. The election of Donald Trump was a response to this sense, and for some prove that angry white men can still change the course of history. Perhaps even the they can their ‘natural rights.’ Here, Kimmel argues that we must consider the rage of this "forgotten" group and create solutions that address the concerns of all Americans.
Trump & Trumpism
The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump is a 2017 book edited by Dr. Bandy X. Lee, who is a forensic psychiatrist. It contains essays from 27 psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals who are writing about the "clear and present danger" that President Donald Trump's mental health poses to the "nation and the individual’s well being". Together, in this book, they suggest three things: First, that the president's presence and behaviors clearly demonstrate and reflect his troubled mental health; second, that both his presence and his behavior are, in a contagious way, affecting the mental health of the people of the United States; and third, that because of this President Trump is placing the country at grave risk of either involving it in an unnecessary war or of undermining democracy itself because of his pathological narcissism and sociopathy and the way that his pathology seems to induce large numbers of people to blindly follow him.
Robert Wuthnow is a sociologist at Princeton University who’s spent eight years interviewing Americans in small towns across the country. All this time, he had one goal: to understand why rural America is so angry with Washington. Wuthnow’s work resulted in a book, The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America. In it, he argues that rural Americans are less concerned about economic issues and more concerned about Washington threatening the social fabric of their small towns and causing a “moral decline” in the country as a whole. Despite the clarity with which his interviewees spoke about this issue, Wuthnow found that while their rage, and the blame that flows out of it, is unmistakable it’s never ever clear what this means for them, how Washington is responsible for the moral decline they’re experiencing, and what they’re expecting Washington to do about it.
Ever since Donald Trump began his improbable political rise, pundits have credited his appeal among white, Christian, and male voters to “economic anxiety.” Hobbled by unemployment and locked out of the recovery, these voters turned out in force to send Mr. Trump, and a message about their economic anxiety, to Washington. A 2018 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences questions that explanation. These researchers suggest that Trump’s white, Christian, male voters weren’t actually driven by anger over the past. Rather this block of voters were — are still are — driven by deep existential fear of what’s to come. These white, Christian male voters, this study suggests, turned to and are fiercely loyal to President Trump because they felt and still feel their identity and their socio-economic status is being seriously threatened.
america’s constitutional crises
[There is a phenomenon that — to me as a scholar of constitutional law — seems new]. I call this phenomenon constitutional hardball…A shorthand sketch of constitutional hardball is this: It consists of political claims and practices – both legislative and executive – that are without much question within the bounds of existing constitutional doctrine and practice, but that are nonetheless in some tension with existing pre-constitutional understandings. These phenomena are hardball practices because its practitioners see themselves as playing for keeps in a special kind of way; they believe that the stakes of the political controversy their actions provoke are quite high, and that their defeat and their opponents’ victory would be a serious, perhaps permanent setback to the political positions they hold…
Over the past week, the presidentʼs statements and the executive branchʼs actions in response to congressional oversight requests suggest that the executive branch may have decided to adopt a strategy of maximal resistance to oversight across the board. If so, this would be a dramatic break from the executive branchʼs approach to responding to congressional requests for at least the past half-century. Implementing a strategy designed to stonewall meaningful oversight across the board would also be a form of constitutional hardball that significantly increases the stakes in this contest of will between the branches.
President Trump proclaimed recently that his administration would be “fighting all the subpoenas.” And the headlines are filled with the proliferating disputes between the Democratic-controlled House and the administration. According to CNN, the Democrats have declared they will take the disputes “to the courts,” even though, as several scholars quoted in the article note, the courts are not likely to resolve anything quickly, or perhaps ever.
Many have argued that the United States’ two major political parties have experienced “asymmetric polarization” in recent decades: The Republican Party has moved significantly further to the right than the Democratic Party has moved to the left. The practice of consti- tutional hardball, this Essay argues, has followed a similar—and causally related—trajectory. Since at least the mid-1990s, Republican officeholders have been more likely than their Democratic counterparts to push the constitutional envelope, straining unwritten norms of gov- ernance or disrupting established constitutional understandings. Both sides have done these things. But contrary to the apparent assumption of some legal scholars, they have not done so with the same frequency or intensity.
This Response to professors Fishkin and Pozen’s Asymmetric Constitutional Hardball argues that Republicans have engaged in “asymmetric constitutional hardball” since 1993. This Response accepts the authors’ contention that Republicans have increasingly engaged in constitutional hardball but casts doubt on the purported asymmetry.
Part I of this response questions whether the authors’ primary examples of Republican constitutional hardball---government shutdowns resulting from tensions over spending and other matters between Presidents Obama and Clinton on the one hand and congressional Republicans on the other---supports the authors’ thesis. Part II highlights important examples of Democratic constitutional hardball, especially hardball by the Obama Administration, that are omitted from the authors’ analysis. Part II also briefly reviews reasons why Democrats have been increasingly inclined toward constitutional hardball.
On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise. Instead, he has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed Americaʼs divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us—of every race, gender, and creed—are created equal.
This is not a partisan judgment.
Michael Paulsen: A book review of To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment; by Laurence Tribe & Joshua Matz. New York, N.Y.: Basic Books.
Alexander Hamilton foresaw it perfectly: impeachments of Presidents are by their nature political proceedings, conducted by political institu- tions exercising political judgment about the public wrongfulness of a President’s asserted misconduct. And built into that reality is the danger that presidential impeachments can become more about partisan loyal- ties than the merits of whether a President has engaged in serious wrongful conduct meeting the Constitution’s impeachment standard.
The RAND Corporation is studying “Truth Decay,” This report is focused on understanding the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life. As a nonpartisan institution that seeks to advance the public good through research and analysis, RAND is concerned about the threat Truth Decay poses to evidence-based policymaking, and with this report is taking its first strong step into inserting some reasoned, evidence-based thinking into the discussion about this issue.