“Public Sentiment Is Everything”: Lincoln’s View of Political Persuasion

"Public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed." -- Abraham Lincoln, explaining how Stephen Douglas would support the pro-slavery position and he would not, from the 1958 Lincoln-Douglas debate in contest for the US Senate. This explains also why legislation passes or fails in Congress, much more important that... Continue Reading →


Forget Left vs Right. Elections Are Now Choice Between Reform Agenda and Cynical Self-dealing, Corruption

Americans have historically chosen pragmatism over ideology, the political center over the far right or far left. After descending into cynicism about politics and politicians in 2016, they can now embrace policies to clean up the mess -- the corrosive influence of money in politics, encouraging candidates to rely on small donations, addressing the lack... Continue Reading →

How Seriously To Take US Political Divisions?

I've been surprised that some of my most vociferous "conservative" sparring partners online now admit that they reluctantly voted for Donald Trump or didn't vote for him at all in 2016. Rather, they voted against Hillary Clinton, desperate to "turn the page" from the too long-running Clinton soap-opera. Some would have voted for Joe Biden... Continue Reading →

John Adams Put Principles Above Politics

John Adams, as portrayed in the David McCullough biography and seven-part HBO miniseries, was often a blunt-spoken man who placed principle above political expediency. His loyalty was to "a government of laws and not of men," to facts not the wishful thinking of a partisan mob. "Facts are stubborn things," Adams said in 1774 after... Continue Reading →

‘Trumpism’ May Be Temporary Setback

Ruy Teixeira is optimistic about a progressive triumph against Trump and the Republicans. "Liberals Will Beat Trump in the End," he wrote in Washington Post: "The dominant ideology in the United States is one that combines 'symbolic conservatism' (honoring tradition, distrusting novelty, embracing the conservative label) with “operational liberalism” (wanting government to take more action in... Continue Reading →

Freedoms Depend On Public Opinion

“The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends on public opinion,” George Orwell wrote in “Freedom of the Park.” “The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are... Continue Reading →

Are Trump Voters Rational?

Robert Kurzban and Jason Weeden say "yes" in regard to Trump voters. On issues like abortion, immigration, trade, and white male privilege, certain voters are acting in their perceived best interests, they write. Kurban and Weeden are authors of “The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind: How Self-Interest Shapes Our Opinions and Why We Won’t Admit... Continue Reading →

A Miracle That A Demagogue Wasn’t Elected President Before 2016

http://video-api.wsj.com/api-video/player/iframe.html?guid=A4EF5C5C-D8E9-4BB1-9E1D-99D50B014AF6 Given that nearly 73 percent of Americans in 2016 do not have college degrees, it is amazing that a Trump-like demagogue has not won the presidency before, and that our democracy has not degraded long before now. Most voters in the past never took a college-level course in history, politics, persuasion, argumentation, sociology, economics,... Continue Reading →

‘Democracy for Realists’

"Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government," by Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels, two political scientists, bursts the idealists' dream of democracy as well-informed citizens thoughtfully "steering the ship of state from the voting booth." They demonstrate that voters--even those who are well informed and politically engaged--mostly choose parties and candidates on... Continue Reading →

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