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Focus on Republic's Preservation, Not Candidates' Personalities

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By Friday, 19 June 2020 11:47 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The year 2020 will go down as one of the most alarming in national and global history.

We have experienced a pandemic still threatening to take millions of lives, urban disturbances trashing some of our finest city spaces — and even an occupation of a part of one of them — as well as a political situation in which our leaders sought to excel each other in excoriation and condemnation.

Some worried that these were the preconditions of revolution or civil war, but our current political divisions, reflecting deeper cultural divisions, are probably part of a recurring feature in American society. They are reminiscent of the national division 50 plus years ago, when the nation was reeling from an unpopular war, the assassination of John and Robert Kennedy and that of Martin Luther King.

All of this, as our inner cities went up in conflagrations far greater than we've experienced even in this tumultuous year.

Yes, we recovered from the disturbances of the 1960’s and 1970’s, and we will likely recover from this one; that's because in spite of those who see the United States as a land riven by systemic racism, ours is still a nation offering fantastic opportunity and the fact is we remain a magnet for immigration. 

Nevertheless, we are in danger of slipping into what one Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Samuel Chase, centuries ago, called "mobocracy, the worst of all possible governments."

The civic leaders who allowed the recent looting and the creation of  "autonomous zones" in some of our cities, seem to lack the will to maintain the rule of law and the protection of private property necessary for everyone's economic well-being.

Calls to defund the police, because of the possibly bad acts of a few law enforcement officers, are a sign that order in our society is increasingly fragile; that anarchy, chaos, and the emergence of an autocracy of the kind once seen in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and still in China, Venezuela, and Cuba could indeed arise. 

The need to restore the rule of law — to avoid the arbitrary acts of state and local official— is not made easier by the recent actions of Supreme Court majorities, actions rejecting Trump administration policies that have simply sought to correct unconstitutional initiatives of the Obama administration.

When even a professed conservative, (Trump nominee Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch) can write an opinion reading into a congressional Act provisions that were clearly not contemplated, in an manner that can be described as "breathtakingly arrogant" and arbitrary, it is more difficult to reign in similar arbitrary actions by lower courts, such as currently being experienced by Michael Flynn.

We are reaping the whirlwind sowed by the educational "reforms" commencing in the 1960s, when rigorous college and secondary school curriculums anchored in the traditional teaching of history, morals, and religion, gave way to a smorgasbord of "relevant" student-driven choices, ones having little actual relevance to the acquisition of perspective, wisdom— or virtue.

The abandonment of educational standards continues apace, as even Harvard has declared that it will no longer require standardized tests for admission. What once was understood to be an educational meritocracy is also transforming into something closer to "mobocracy."

Instead of seeking further to divide us by sensationalizing our political differences and seeking to demonize our candidates, our media might better serve us by exploring the educational vacuum we currently endure.

Our inner city public schools, it now appears to be widely acknowledged, are failing to train students in the most basic of skills, and surely widespread recent urban disturbances owe something to a failure to inculcate respect for others, for property, for order —  for society itself.

Instead of debating whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden wrongfully were aided by the Chinese or the Russians, we would do better to determine which political party actually has a plan to restore and maintain the conditions  ultimately allowing all Americans an opportunity to flourish.

Instead of focusing on the personalities of Trump and Biden, our press and we should be concerned with which party’s platform offers the better opportunity for restoring economic progress, social order, and the virtue necessary to maintain a republic.

The Trump administration’s efforts in his first term, including the criminal law reform of the First Step Act, the aid to Historically Black Colleges, and the reversal of some Obama-era policies and regulations that hurt our economy and interfered with our educational institutions were obscured by the manufactured controversies of impeachment and Russian Collusion.

We now have an opportunity to engage in a meaningful effort to set the course for the next four years, and to repair the rent fabric of our polity. We must move beyond mud-slinging, sensationalism, and "Gotcha!" journalism to discern how to restore national peace and prosperity.

Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). Presser was a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus for 2018-2019. Read Stephen B. Presser's Reports — More Here.

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Instead of focusing on the personalities of Trump and Biden, our press and we should be concerned with which party’s platform offers the better opportunity for restoring economic progress, social order, and the virtue necessary to maintain a republic.
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Friday, 19 June 2020 11:47 AM
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