The Hegelian dialectic and the ghost of Scalia

Iran has tested a missile and the US administration has responded by threatening to go nuclear.  Ok, not the real nuclear–the smaller kind, where you only need 50 votes to confirm a justice of the supreme court instead of 60.  Still, it sounds cool.  Also, Trump seems to have made his first well-executed and not-all-that-controversial-really move since taking office by nominating a pretty good candidate to take the place of Antonin Scalia.  The only real problem is that so did the previous president.  Unfortunately, Republican congressmen decided that they could make up a rule against Black, Democratic presidents nominating justices in the last year of their term, and so the spot is still vacant.  So, what should the Democratic congressmen do now?  Should they reward this behavior by confirming the new qualified guy or should they behave like their counterparts and appear just as obstructionistic?  Tough options.

Looking at the bigger picture, though, it may be that there is a sort of dark brilliance at play here.  According to the Hegelian dialectic, when a new element is brought to a system in stasis it creates an action (a thesis), which leads to a reaction (an antithesis), and, finally, a new stasis (a synthesis).  The advantage then, as it applies to a political dynamic, always goes to the unreasonable, since, according to the dialectic, incrementalism is less effective than overreach.  One needs to create an overreaching tension, which then results in an antithetical reaction, and comes to rest in a new equilibrium that is further in the direction of the original action than was the previous equilibrium.  In other words, if you want to strengthen immigration laws, begin with an outlandish executive order, let the usual suspects wrangle over it, then back it down to some palpable level, denounce your detractors as traitors, and claim victory.  It’s not complicated, but it works to curry favor with the masses.

Also, in honor of Black History Month, the president held a listening session, in which he invited several Black persons to sit around him and listen to what he had to say.  Someday, maybe the Mexicans and Muslims will get their turn at such an honor.  Oh, what a day that will be!



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