What is this blog about?

What is this blog about?

I am a political philosopher. My 'political philosophy' is a form of 'liberal egalitarianism.' So in this blog I reflect on various issues in political philosophy and politics (especially Canadian and American politics) from a liberal egalitarian perspective.

If you are curious about what I mean by 'liberal egalitarianism,' my views are strongly influenced by the conception of justice advanced by John Rawls. (So I sometimes refer to myself as a 'Rawlsian,' even though I disagree with Rawls on some matters.)

Astonishingly, I am paid to write and teach moral and political philosophy. I somehow manage to do this despite my akratic nature. Here is my faculty profile.

Monday, July 18, 2016

On the radicalization of the U.S. Republican Party

Following up on the topic of my previous post, I thought that I should mention that Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann have an excellent article in today’s Vox: “The Republicans waged a 3-decade war on government. They got Trump.” The article refers back to the authors’ 2012 book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, and their related Washington Post article, “Let’s Just Say It: The Republicans Are the Problem.” Here is the key passage from their 2012 argument:
The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier in American politics — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
As Ornstein and Mann point out in the Vox article, the nomination of Trump – and the collapse of any serious opposition to that nomination amongst the party’s elites – vindicates their earlier thesis.
In the end, the exploitation of anti-government sentiment by Republican leaders, and the active efforts on their part to make all government look corrupt and illegitimate, reached its logical conclusion. The Republican political establishment looked no less corrupt, weak, and illegitimate than the Democratic one, and the appeal of a rank outsider became greater.
It’s grim reading. And it underscores how vital it is that Trump be defeated in November. Even if that happens, though, Ornstein and Mann are skeptical that the Republican Party can become a constructive force in American politics for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Trump is a horror – but then so is the Republican Party

In an earlier post I claimed that it was the moral duty of all American citizens to oppose Donald Trump’s attempt to become U.S. president by the most effective means available to them. For most citizens, of course, this means voting for Hillary Clinton.

My favourite American pundit, Charles Pierce, points out (for the nth time) what a danger Trump is in his recent post: “This Isn't Funny Anymore. American Democracy Is at Stake.” Pierce doesn’t pull any punches (not that he ever does): “Anyone who supports Donald Trump is a traitor to the American idea.” 

His conclusion:
Here is the truth. Nobody called for a moment of silence for Micah Johnson. Eleven U.S. cities are not on the brink of racial violence. He, Trump just made that shit up so his followers can stay afraid and angry at the people he wants them to fear and hate. This lie was a marching order and the Party of Lincoln is right in step with him, straight into the burning Reichstag of this man's mind. 
Welcome to the 2016 Republican convention: a four-day celebration of the ritual suicide of American democracy. 
With balloons.
Sadly, the fact of the matter is that most of the candidates whom 'the Donald' vanquished were pretty horrible as well (they simply were more subtle in expressing their racism, misogyny, homophobia, inegalitarianism, and intolerance). The Republican Party has become an extremist party, one now closer in its rhetoric and agenda to France’s National Front or Britain’s UKIP than the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower.

But lest despair overwhelm us, I recommend the following two pages that mock the Donald:

1. This one mocks Trump by imagining what kind of Dungeons and Dragons ‘Dungeon Master’ he would be in a series of tweets. It’s called (appropriately enough) ‘Dungeons and Donalds.’

2. This one replaces Calvin’s head with Trump’s in a number of classic ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ strips. No dialogue is changed! The aptness of Trump uttering Calvin’s lines indicates that intellectually he on par with a six year-old cartoon boy. (And the expressions on the photos of Trump’s face that are pasted into the strips are perfect.)