Supreme Dysfunction

In a recent issue of The American Prospect, columnist Rick Perlstein dismissed concerns about recent polling and reminded readers that considerably more is at stake right now than the “horse race” that media disproportionately focuses on. As he says, that all-too-typical approach to political campaign coverage is increasingly irrelevant.

This year, hearing the political reporters on NPR every morning yammering on about stuff like that, it sounds like the drone of the adults in a Peanuts cartoon. It’s so far down the scale of factors determining how the world might go in 2025 that I cringe, tune out, and wait for the next story to start.

If that typical coverage is “down the scale,” what does Perlstein count as more weighty? He suggests that speculation about how many electoral votes each candidate will get is less significant than concerns about the number of people who might be willing to take up arms to “avenge” a Trump loss.

And then there’s the conventional coverage of the Trump trial. Perlstein points out that the attacks being made by Trump’s GOP sycophants–largely ignored or minimized by the media– are part of Repubicans’ ongoing assault on the rule of law. As he says, “what is actually on trial in New York? Trials themselves.”

Every time the man who once took an oath to faithfully execute America’s laws and may next year do so again acts in ways that would bring criminal sanction to any other defendant, by brazenly and deliberately intimidating witnesses in direct defiance of Judge Merchan’s orders, Donald Trump imparts a lesson to his millions of supplicants: One of the three allegedly coequal branches of constitutional governance in the United States is illegitimate, should its decisions not break Donald Trump’s way.

The attack on the rule of law has, of course, been aided and abetted by the current disaster that is the U.S. Supreme Court–a Court that has been intentionally packed with far-Right ideologues.

It is, of course, a crisis now long in the making. Six mortals with lifetime appointments, five of them named by Republican presidents who never won a popular majority, routinely abandoning even the pretense of intellectual coherence and procedural norms to press changes in how the nation is governed, so right-wing they could never stand democratic scrutiny.

For instance, by seeking to strip the power of nonpartisan experts to adjudicate highly technical regulatory questions. Or to control the split-second decisions of doctors in emergency rooms about how to keep women alive. Or to usurp judgement of municipalities and states to decide who can carry concealed weapons of war—reserving those rights instead to, in order, the 535 members of Congress, the nutjob Republican majority in the Idaho legislature, and the made-up fantasies about the beliefs of powder-wigged men from back before bullets had been invented.

Perlstein went on to describe the truly bizarre arguments that have been advanced for Presidential immunity–and the even more grotesque musings of Justice Alito– in what he called the “aptly named” case of Trump v. United States. 

So here we are.

In a very real sense, it is Trump and his cult versus the United States–at least the United States envisioned by the nation’s Founders. Not only does the MAGA movement pose an unprecedented threat to America’s democratic norms, it does so at a time when the multiple threats posed by climate change promise (at best) enormous social upheavals.

Perlstein argues that the political situation in which we find ourselves was “seeded” in Bush v. Gore, and from a legal standpoint, he may be right. But historians tell us that there has always been a portion of the American public that rejected the philosophical underpinnings of America’s constituent documents–citizens who have resisted every expansion of the civic equality and individual liberty at the heart of those instruments. Today, that resistance is most obvious in the hysterical backlash against women’s rights, “woke-ness” and efforts at racial inclusion.

Reactionaries have always been with us, but for most of our history, they’ve been on the fringes of political life. What is new–and arguably unprecedented–is that they have captured one of America’s major political parties. They have a Supreme Court majority, including two Justices who repeatedly and flagrantly violate judicial ethics. They have made no bones about their plans for 2025 and beyond, should they win in November.

Perlstein is right: treating the upcoming election as a typical horse-race ignores reality. A very dangerous reality.


  1. it is not the “horse race” but the Horse’s Ass the media disproportionately focuses on that is the national and global problem of our nation. The rare instances that President Joe Biden’s face and what he has to say pops up are almost an “Oh, yeah; he’s the other presidential candidate.” Our standing on the global stage will be decided on November 5, 2024, as well as the future of the United States of America and every American in all 50 states and 5 territories.

    IF…and it is a big IF…Trump should happen to be convicted of his current felonies before the court and sent to prison and it should bring his threatened bloodshed in our streets; LET IT HAPPEN!!! We will be given a visible and viable enemy force to defend ourselves against and end the current Ghostbusters situation we have been in for eight years. We are already living in a state of being unsafe anywhere and everywhere due to fear of unknown reactions from Trump’s Congress and his Insurrectionists who remain “standing back and standing by” waiting for his command to act.

    “Perlstein is right: treating the upcoming election as a typical horse-race ignores reality. A very dangerous reality.”

    The appearance of most of the GOP members of Congress at his trial for photo ops rather than sitting in Congress to vote on issues is Congregational issue which needs to be addressed NOW. The appearance of Hell’s Angels at the trial site is a warning far louder than than their ongoing dog whistles; and as someone posted on Facebook, “Red ties have replaced brown shirts.” We assuredly do need to know what he and his Fascist followers are up to but can it be done in a daily scheduled report on all media to keep us informed of this Hannibal Lector fan. We were made aware of all of Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacey and real-life cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer on a daily basis without 24/7 force-feeding of their face and their words.

  2. I highly recommend Perlstein’s four-book history of the birth and growth of the conservative Republican Party. Goldwater. Nixon. Bridge to Reagan and Reagan.

  3. Thank you Patrick for that book recommendation. I have always wondered how the Republican Party has gone from the party of Lincoln, Teddy R., and Eisenhower to Reagan, W., and T*ump.

  4. Also, Heather Cox Richardson has written a book about how the history of Republican Party titled “To Make Men Free”.

  5. Great thread,
    But really, so what?

    Being tolerant to a fault is not governance. If a foreign entity was involved in the same shenanigans inside of this country’s borders, what would happen? Well, it is happening. Espionage on a wholesale scale, citizens being robbed by digital scam artists, interference in the electoral proceedings inside of these borders. And, what’s the plan to eradicate this interference? What’s the plan to prevent citizens from losing their treasure? What’s the plan to control the political narrative?The grifters in this country are connected to those overseas, and are stripping society bare like a bunch of vultures.
    But yet, those who would be considered the gatekeepers, twiddle their thumbs in a very nervous fashion, clueless while feigning rational concern.

    How many of the readers on this blog have received phone calls from the fake FBI, the fake treasury, fake tax collectors, fake court systems, telling you about a possible warrant for your arrest, or that you can pay a certain amount of money to prevent your arrest, this stuff is just as dangerous for the gullible as any of this other stuff being talked about.

    It’s all based on lies! A house of cards built on sand in a wind storm. An illusion of strength but based on fragility. This is a society loaded with, and run on moral turpitude. We are witnessing the decay of social cohesion, society as a whole has been eviscerated. And yet, with the barrage of maleffective slings and arrows unleashed by immoral and dishonest brokers, The other side just capitulates. There are so many attacks, so many scams, they come from everywhere! Citizens are taxed beyond comprehension, folks are tired, they’re fighting with no help, each person is their own Ukraine. Begging for help with none on the horizon.

    It isn’t even a bait and switch anymore, it’s a full-fledged terror attack that is wholeheartedly being allowed to happen. There is no solution looking to these miscreants and government. The constant din of lies and deceit make it difficult albeit impossible to formulate any sort of plan of action. The corruption is obvious, the high court, 20 something statehouses and legislatures, There is no way to correct it because there is no will to correct it. In the grand scheme of things, collapse is imminent, The fight has been beaten out of those who recognize what’s going on, but can’t find a palatable way to remedy the situation. So as always, it’s going to be bloody, and extremely unpleasant.

    The collapse is going to take the entirety of human civilization with it. Gunpowder has been replaced with splitting atoms, and intelligence has been replaced with the artificial type! There really is no rollback, those tears and cries you see and hear are just the start. You can’t be paralytic in the face of immense onslaught. But paralytic is what it is. And collapse is what it will be, on a global scale.

  6. JoAnn’s essay this morning is spot on. But not to worry … Neil deGrasse Tyson has shown us that a giant asteroid will hit Earth on 4/13/2029. Let’s hope it strikes the Supreme Court building. That’s the only way we’ll rid the world of those 5 idiots and the one spineless Justice.

    I’ve mentioned before that the GOP has headed toward today’s disaster since the day after Lincoln died. No mystery. Corporate/Banking America has owned that party ever since. Why even Teddy R. had to battle the banks in order to keep America a democracy.

    Finally, as Karl Marx predicted, unregulated capitalism will destroy itself from within. And who has de-regulated our economics? REPUBLICANS. Why? To serve their masters on Wall Street and “K” Street.

    So, since the media is owned, mostly, by corporate America, what other emphasis should we expect from their programming. It’s what sells, not what is necessary that moves them. Forget Fox News. The criminal Aussies in charge there have no conscience or respect for democracy anyway – never did.

  7. While the right and far right keep their sycophants up in arms by continuously projecting lies and false grievances onto the airwaves, the Democrats in Congress and state legislatures do almost nothing to counteract those lies.

    The far right media owners have been and continue to be generously rewarded by advertisers because feeding lies keeps their listeners tune in.

    In a recent post Heather Cox Richardson spoke of how the far right media has been controlling R members of Congress and telling them what to say and do. As JoAnn always says – follow the money.

    It is foolish to think the rethuglicans and right wing members of the supreme clown court can’t go any lower because they consistently show is there is no end to how low they will go.

  8. The only thing I wonder is how many nut jobs out there are going to follow the congressional nut jobs and and the supreme commander of the nut jobs, trump himself, at the polls in November. If there are enough of them to prevail, then of course it’s over for democracy in this country. And it is happening all over the world; the rise in far right politics in Western Europe is frightening. We in the US need enough support at the polls to defeat the nut jobs to take control of both houses of Congress as well as the Presidency, and then begin the process to reorganize SCOTUS, which is unacceptable right now. Term limits, a code of ethics with some teeth to it, and a substantially more rigorous vetting process to abet the current “advice and consent” senatorial oversight, for starters.

  9. I propose a constitutional amendment to eliminate presidential appointment of federal judges and Supreme court Justices in favor of having each Appellate Circuit’s collective Bar Associations electing one Justice from its own jurisdiction.

    I propose a strict rotation in and out of the Supreme Court, with the number of Justices being set equal to the number of judicial circuits and the Justices’ term of office also being set equal in years to the number of judicial circuits. Each Justice would be elected to office by a rank-order vote of the judicial circuit’s own Bar Associations, based on demonstrated impartiality, judicial scholarship, and personal rectitude. No Congressional approval required, either.

    Thirteen Circuits, so 13 Justices, and I propose strictly rotating 13-year terms, staggered such that Circuit #1 would elect its Justice in the year 2xxx, Circuit #2 would elect its Justice in the following year, and so on, until in the 13th year each Circuit has elected one Justice to the Supreme Court. Then the most senior Justice (i.e., the original Justice from Circuit #1) is retired at the end of his-her honorary “Chief Justice” year and is replaced by the freshly elected new Justice from Circuit #1.

    Rinse and repeat.

    Under this plan, the entire Supreme Court would be refreshed every 13 years without the political patronage that has been a weak point of the Constitution since the very beginning and has led to the horrible mess we have on our hands today. Rank order voting would eliminate the crazies from both ends of the political spectrum. Any Supreme Court Justice may be impeached for malfeasance or misfeasance by rank-order vote of the Circuit’s Bar Associations, just as he or she was elected in the first place.

    A similar approach should be established for all the lower courts as well, although strict 13-year terms may not be necessary for them. Responsible and well-regarded lower court judges could be up for re-confirmation, not forced into retirement.

  10. It’s definitely going to be a bumpy ride. I think that tfg will do what he has done, and that is fall ten points below his polling average. The outstanding question is what impact will third-party candidates have on the numbers? I know many people aren’t thrilled about the major party’s candidates. As we get closer to November, I’m hoping that more people will understand the potential loss of our rights that will follow a Republican victory.

    I have worked closely with Democrats and Republicans. We all were government employees and we never talked politics at work. We just did our jobs. My boss was in an appointed position. If you’re not sure what that means, let me spell it out for you. Appointed positions are inherently political the appointment comes from the President and they know that they are short timers. When they try to decide if a potential new employee should be hired or not, based on party affiliation it is up to people like me, the deep state, to advise that we don’t have the right to do that. In fact I had to do that in order to bring in one of my best staffers. If I were still working in DC, I would be fired if tfg won a second term.

    Some people believe that we need a strong leader. It would be nice to have a leader who is strong enough to use persuasion, not threats to others and their families, to get things done.

  11. John Sorg’s rather bleak assessment of our current position in the US brings him closer to the truth today. The sham media in this country has deluded those who believe the Democratic Party is here to save the day. I like Perlstein, but his focus on Trump and Republicans has blinded him to the fact that the Democrats aren’t much better.

    Biden and his handlers are making the same mistakes Hillary Clinton made in 2016 and will probably get the same results. His defense of Israel’s genocide and attacks yesterday on the ICC for issuing arrest warrants against top officials in both Hamas and Israel will cement the loss of young people. We have five presidential candidates, and three of them support genocide. Those three will be allowed to debate each other on TV. Red flags galore means pay attention.

    As John eluded to, we are inching our way toward WW3 in Ukraine and Taiwan. WW3 against nuclear-armed foes, and Washington seems delusional about it. I see their posts daily on social media, which are all phantasmic.

    One illusion bursting in front of the world is “American Exceptionalism.” As John says, “It’s a house of cards.” All propaganda, but if Obama makes a speech about it, it must be true. LOL

    Our plans in Ukraine failed. The trillions invested in wars won’t be coming back. The trillions given to Big Auto have produced EVs at an average price of $55K. China has manufactured EVs that have incredibly more for consumers but cost an average of $12K. They invested in innovation and tech while we invested in wars and shareholder/CEO profit-seeking. Now, Big Auto is crying and begging for protections such as tariffs and sanctions. Washington obliges.

    If you look back, the unipolar world set up by the US after WW2 is ending. It failed because of the US’s greed and lack of moral leadership. We have entered a multipolar world led by China and Russia. We are observing the collapse of the old world order in all its gyrations. It’s well beyond the two captured political parties who pretend to be feuding with one another. It’s ALL performative while the house of cards collapses.

  12. I am reminded by the topic for today and responses thereto of what Stalin once responded to an assertion that he (Stalin) had done something the pope didn’t like: “And how many divisions does the pope have?” Ah, fear and intimidation! The currency of dictators such as Stalin, Hitler and wannabes like Trump!

    The Supreme Court has no “divisions” and I know of no constitutional provision or law that requires We the People to abide by its holdings aside from tradition. The present court composed of some corrupt members is not entitled to our following its increasingly pro-fascist and bribed findings in apparent support of private enrichment and the dictatorship of a psychopathic Queens real estate bully. No one is above the law, which includes members of the Supreme Court in their official capacities, and last time I looked “the law” includes provisions against bribery, immunity to criminal charge, and approval of the use of force and violence in determining who won and lost elections.

    As a lawyer I have taken an oath to follow the Constitution, which I have done, am doing, and will do, but my oath is to the Constitution and not corrupt members of the court who have have final jurisdiction over its interpretation, a court whose majority as presently constituted is not entitled to either my respect or following their interpretation of the so-called “law of the land.” I will not be bound by interpretation that is itself unconstitutional, which was the reason I resigned from the Supreme Court bar following Bush v. Gore and would resign today with the court’s unconstitutional ruling in Dobbs if I had not already done so, and as for fear and intimidation, I here repeat what I often note: Our democracy is the most precious asset we hold in common, and one of the last few things left worth dying for.

  13. What James S. said.
    Perlstein’s books may be wonderfully elucidative, but the short version, is that the
    oligarchs, and their predecessors have been planning, and working to take down our Democracy for ages. FDR’s “New Deal,” and the hippie radicals of the ’60’s energized them.
    I have a bumper sticker, on my car, that says “The Hippies Were Right!” They/we were right about love, caring and inclusion; you know basic Christian concepts, it turns out. The right-wingers, such as “Mr. Christian” himself, Mike Johnson, who can personally support that least moral, caring and loving, almost human wanna-be bag of useless protoplasm, hardly care and are hardly Christians.

  14. I think we need to stop saying “these people are not real Christians” and accept that these in fact are the real Christians. Those of us who internalized the Beatitudes and Buddha-esque teachings of Jesus were like abused partners, seeing what we wanted to see, creating a loving savior in our own images.

    Football player Butker and House Speaker Johnson are the real Christians. It’s a cult, and they have no interest in listening to reason or moderating their beliefs. They are, like addicts, entirely delusional, and they will gladly destroy us to justify their own insanity. They will not rest until we live in Gilead.

  15. WOW! Doom and gloom from everyone? The election isn’t over yet friends. Despair won’t win it. Despite what Todd claims, the two parties are not the same. Adopting that belief is exactly what our foreign adversaries want us to do. Don’t fall for it.

  16. Absolutely!
    This country is built exactly like a house of cards or, as the parable says, a house on sand. The waves and wind wash it away. But the house built on a rock mass, built on a firm foundation, can withstand the lashing of the storm without collapsing.

    “Look out that nobody misleads you; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. You are going to hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not terrified. For these things must take place, but the end is not yet.”​—Matthew 24:4-6)

    Like a cage full of birds, So their houses are full of deception.That is why they have become powerful and rich. They have grown fat and smooth; They overflow with evil. They do not plead the legal case of the fatherless, That they may gain success;
    And they deny justice to the poor.’” Jeremiah 5:27-28

  17. “In a very real sense, it is Trump and his cult versus the United States–at least the United States envisioned by the nation’s Founders.”

    I look for sentences that cut to the essence, and this is one of them.

    Why? To use a milk production analogy, there is homogenized milk and pasteurized milk. Nowadays, we only know milk which is both. But back in the day, first, there was pasteurized milk, which removed the bad guys (bacteria) from the milk, preventing pathogens from being passed on to consumers. Then there was homogenization, and the cream, which used to float on the top, disappeared into the milk rather than floating on top.

    Liberals want a pasteurized society. MAGA wants it to be homogenized instead.

    Liberalism has survived since the first mention of it in the Magna Carta to today because it accepts a diverse humanity – eliminate criminals so the rest can shine. MAGA wants everyone to be the same and like them. Doing that, Trump teaches, is what law should be. The law should be used to elevate him, and those like him above the rest, and the rest should be outlawed.

    Why do you think the focus of MAGA has been the Supreme Court, Congress, and the States, with Trump as the entire executive branch?

  18. I think Maga is built on a house of cards and wish there was more that could be done to bring it down quicker. So much deference to tfg by part of Congress and the Supreme Court just draws out the timeline and gives the Maga network time to regroup and interfere with justice. I hope the Maga thugs don’t get to the jurors with their bribes and threats in the current Hush Money trial. The medias feeding frenzy of the continuing Twilight Zone saga of the want to be dictator is wearing/exhausting and is adding fuel to the political fire.
    James Carvelle interviewed on Jen Saki last night says he’s waiting on direction from White House. There is so much dirt to choose from, it needs to be narrowed down and hammered by democrats. Maybe Biden will set that up in presidential debate in June.

  19. Beginning with the book “The Dangerous Case Of Donald Trump” written by 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts who assessed Trump in 2017, I have ordered many of the books recommended by those who are experts themselves. By the time I was getting into one book, Trump had committed another dastardly deed and reported our national conditions with even worse lies than were made public in the books I started but never finished trying to keep up with the most recent disaster on the day’s news.

    Maybe we should wait for the movie to come out; I believe Anthony Hopkins would refuse to play Trump even though he did an incredible job as Hannibal Lector in “Silence Of The Lambs” and “Hannibal”.

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