University of Chicago

A Fallacy in Motion

The President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Charles Lipson is a walking fallcy, a professor of political science who prefers to use that credential that he might promote crackpot theses that ignore the details. To wit:

Charles LipsonWhen presidents become unpopular, they are no longer welcome on the campaign trail. They’re trapped in Washington, watching their party abandon them. It happened to Lyndon B. Johnson, whose presidency collapsed amid protests over Vietnam. He left Washington only to visit his Texas ranch and assorted military bases, where he gave patriotic speeches to silent battalions. Richard Nixon, drowning in Watergate, was confined to Camp David and a few foreign capitals, where he was greeted as a global strategist. Jimmy Carter, crushed by the Iranian hostage crisis and a bad economy, stopped traveling beyond the Rose Garden.

Now, the same oppressive walls are closing in on President Barack Obama. He is welcome only in the palatial homes of Hollywood stars and hedge-fund billionaires or the well-kept fairways of Martha’s Vineyard.

Well-written, indeed, if it was listed as fiction. But it’s not, and that means it’s a fraud.

The simple fact is that President Obama is avoiding states where Democrats are running competitively but against the odds. To wit, why would Alison Lundergan Grimes want President Obama onstage with her? She’s running against one of the most powerful Republicans in the country, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader who has so botched his handling of the Senate Republican Conference that Grimes can even run close.

Lipson’s criticism about palatial homes is unusual; most political science professors would suggest it very unwise to ignore rich donors during an election season, but Lipson would prefer you believe otherwise because it helps his poisonous narrative. Christopher Keating noted that Obama’s second trip to Connecticut in a week—a scheduled rally—was cancelled because, well, he’s the president and has a job to do. You know, ebola and all that. The palatial home Lipson refers to would appear to be in Greenwich, where Obama spoke at a fundraiser for Gov. Malloy.

The president is also welcome in Wisconsin, hoping to boost support for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke.

One wonders what the political science would say of someplace like Kansas? Would the president’s presence in the Sunflower State help or hurt Democratic gubernatorial challenger Paul Davis? Given that the incumbent Republican presently has the slightest edge in an otherwise dead heat (less than a percent), the question might be how Gov. Sam Brownback found himself in such a weakened position that he must actually face the possibility of losing. Then again, it’s not much of a question: Brownback and his Republican allies have wrecked the states finances.

In that context, it’s hard to lose faith in Obama if one never had any.

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The Picture: Marriage Equality Mix

Contemplation of Justice

“The rough idea would be that the Roberts court would be to the rights of gays and lesbians what the Warren court was on race issues.”

David A. Strauss

There is a lot going on. Or maybe not. Where once the idea was that courts should stay out of things and let “democracy” pick and choose who gets what human and constitutional rights in the United States, many of those advocates are looking to the Supreme Court of the United States to cram the gays back into the closet. With Justice Ginsburg suggesting last month that the Supreme Court might get involved if the lower courts make a sufficient mess of things, and the Fifteenth Judicial District Court of Louisiana holding the line in terms of state courts, one might wonder about the fervor Robert Barnes noted last week for the Washington Post:

The 10th edition of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. begins work Monday with the prospect of a monumental ruling for gay rights that could serve as a surprising legacy of an otherwise increasingly conservative court.

Whether the justices will decide that the Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry dominates expectations of the coming term; such a ruling would impart landmark status on a docket that so far lacks a blockbuster case.

And some say it would be a defining moment for a closely divided court that bears the chief justice’s name but is most heavily influenced by the justice in the middle: Anthony M. Kennedy, who has written the court’s most important decisions affording protection to gay Americans.

“If the court establishes a right to same-sex marriage . . . [it] will go down in history as one that was on the frontiers of establishing rights for gays and lesbians,” said David A. Strauss, a constitutional-law scholar at the University of Chicago.

“The rough idea would be that the Roberts court would be to the rights of gays and lesbians what the Warren court was on race issues.”

Something about blockbusters, to be certain; one would hope we have enough worked out about our society that we should not necessarily be rushing for a marquée show every year. That is to say, there is plenty wrong with society, but do we really have so many fundamental civil rights questions coming to the fore? And if so, well, what the hell is wrong with Americans that we have not yet figured out how some of these very basic concepts work?

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