Tag Archives: GOP

Should Professors Stop Opining About Trump?

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In last Friday’s New York Times, professional critic Stanley Fish criticized a group of history professors who call themselves Historians Against Trump, for speaking out against the presidential candidate Donald Trump. Fish argues that although they have a right to state their opinion as citizens, they have no right to state their opinion as historians.

Maybe Fish should also criticize climate scientists for speaking out about climate change, given the climate change has also become a political issue. Maybe Fish should tell evolutionary biologists to keep quiet about evolution, given this hotly charged political issue. Fish himself is a law professor. Maybe he should tell law professors that they have no right to write opinion pieces about the constitutionality of some of our legal and political practices…

If this sounds like I am making a reducio ad absurdum out of Fish’s opinion piece– I am: because it is an absurd position. Historians not only have a right to speak out, they have a duty to do so.

“Those who do not remember the past [history] are condemned to repeat it”. This is the warning that George Santayana gave us, and it bears repeating. Historians are uniquely positioned to remind us of what happened in the past and when the results were disastrous. Actually, some of the ‘prophets’ in the Old Testament were simply issuing ‘warnings’ about the direction people were heading– “those who do not remember how to get to the water supply are condemned to die of thirst”.

The United States of Amnesia. This was the term Gore Vidal used to warn Americans of the disastrous results of never remembering what happened in the past. Sometimes we all need a little reminding.

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Maybe Stanley Fish ought to tell political scientists that they should not explain to us what fascism is.

In an appropriately titled book, Fascism: Why Not Here?– Brian E. Fogarty “draws parallels between German culture of the early twentieth century and American culture today”. He wrote the book before the rise of the Tea Party. And I had to go back and read it again after the rise of Trump. It is a very scary book. And we ought to heed his warning.

Most Americans are not just forgetful, they are ignorant as to what is really happening. Who can blame them? It takes a great deal of time and effort (and frustration) to understand more deeply what is happening and why. It is just easier to watch Fox ‘news’, and then vote their conscience.

Maybe historians, and other professors, are speaking out now because they are concerned that if Trump wins the presidency they will not have the ability to speak out later. This happened not just in Nazi Germany, but in the United States during World War I. Many prominent university professors were fired from their positions for merely questioning whether the US should get involved in a European war.

In fact the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the tenure system were started after this disastrous fiasco. John Dewey (my intellectual hero) explained that professors were hired as ‘public intellectuals’– they should not be fired for saying what they think. (By the way there is a fine line between knowledge and opinion that would take too long to explain here.)

The Republicans hate the tenure system nearly as much as they hate very educated liberals. They would love to do away with both, so that they can go back to firing people for saying things they don’t like. Trump has already barred reporters he doesn’t like from attending his rallies. This is the first step toward a ‘slippery slope’ (that I don’t think is a fallacy). The right of freedom of the press is extended to academic freedom. And sometimes a duty to speak out.

Most people do not know who Stanley Fish is, but even less know who I am. However, as I said before I am tired of remaining silent. And I will continue to speak out, not just as a concerned citizen but as a college professor of philosophy (with a focus on ethics and political philosophy).

By the way Mr. Fish, if Trump gets elected and the results are disastrous– do we then not have the right to say “we tried to warn you”.

The Enthusiasm Gap

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Four weeks from today we are going to the polls. Or should I say, some of us are going to the polls. Republicans will turn out in record numbers to express their disdain for Obama, Democrats will sit on their hands and pout. Not voting is the same as not caring. Turning your back on democracy is not the solution for frustration. If you think things couldn’t be worse, just wait until you see what a Republican controlled congress will do, or not do.

The economy is better than most people realize: 248,000 jobs were created in September. Yet wages have stagnated. Wall Street is doing better than ever but corporations are not sharing this windfall with their workers. Can we reasonably blame this on The President?

When are middle class voters going to realize that neither the Republican establishment nor those who fund the Tea Party are on their side? It is the same party that wrecked the economy from 2001–2006, laying the groundwork for the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression… They did not want the economy to recover under Obama – it would make them look even worse. So they obstructed any chance for recovery, and continue to blame Obama for the slow job growth.

The enthusiasm gap… the liberals are upset because we are bombing ISIS. The Latinos are upset because Obama has not single-handedly changed immigration policy. The working class is upset because we haven’t increased minimum wage, nor created better paying jobs. If any of these groups think that the Republican Party would do a better job on the things that they are upset about, then they should stay home… see what happens.

Just listen to their criticisms of President Obama. They do not offer alternatives, but if you realize what they are implying: we would have ground troops fighting in Iraq and Syria, we would never have immigration reform, and minimum wage would never go up. They would continue their agenda of cutting taxes for their wealthy donors, slash regulations which protect consumers and the environment, and militarize the border.

The reason why inequality is continuing to grow goes back 30 years when we were told that all of the prosperity created by cutting taxes for the wealthy would eventually ‘trickle down’. Now we know the truth. All of the economic recoveries since 1980 have benefited the wealthy more than the working class. And you cannot reasonably blame Obama for this.



Each president has to play the hand he or she is dealt. The Republicans want you to forget the hand which they dealt Obama. They took over the House of Representatives in 2011 and have obstructed any chance for job recovery – knowing that Americans would blame the president.

The Coming War with ISIS

nullAs many of you now realize, we are once again building for a war in Iraq. As far as the Republicans are concerned the entire thing is President Obama’s fault. “He shouldn’t have pulled our troops out in the first place”… “He should have acted sooner when the threat was growing”… It doesn’t matter what is going wrong in the world, as far as the Republicans are concerned everything can be blamed on Obama.

Let’s take a breath and back up: first of all, ISIS, which stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, grew out of the Syrian rebels that the Republicans wanted to arm over a year ago. They will claim that they wanted to arm the moderate rebels, but the experts will admit that it is very hard to distinguish the shifting rebel alliances in the Mid East.

A year ago the Republicans were pushing Obama to attack Syria, but when it came time to hold a vote congress would not go ahead and authorize this military action. And then they blamed Obama for not bombing Syria. Now, of course, they want to bomb Syria –- only for the other side.

Let’s see if they have the courage of their ‘convictions’. Odds are that they will continue to ‘beat their chests’ and then not hold a vote once again. Continue reading

Minimum Wage: Hope for the Poor

After President Obama’s latest State of the Union address, the media lit up. The most controversial thing he said? Not gun control, we have heard that all before. Not the war. What could have been so controversial that it out shined some of the hottest topics in the media today? Minimum Wage.

Why is this so controversial? Why wouldn’t we want to give everyone who makes $7.25 an hour a pay raise to $9.00? The GOP is calling it crazy, but in reality it’s not crazy at all. In fact, it makes complete sense from both a moral and a prudential standpoint.

When we think of poverty, we think of unemployed families. We envision those who have not been able to find work, or have not looked for work; however, if we look at our countries impoverished, they largely consist of working families. A single parent working full time that is earning minimum wage takes home $15,080 a year. That’s $3,400 below the federal poverty line for a family of three1. What’s even more scary is that as we are allowing the market to drive up prices on things like food and health care, it’s also driving up the prices of housing because we have not adjusted wages to levels of inflation we are seeing around the nation. In turn, families are now being forced to spend nearly 60% of their monthly income on housing alone.

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