Battle of Chickamauga (Kurz & Allison)

Near the end of June, a poll by Rasmussen Reports said that thirty-two percent of Americans agreed that “it’s likely that the United States will experience a second civil war sometime in the next five years,” and a whopping fifty-nine percent were concerned that “those opposed to President Trump’s policies will resort to violence.”

This might leave you with the impression that things are looking pretty bad for the future of America . . . and perhaps they are. We seem to be simmering right at the edge of an eruption into political violence. The rhetoric between America’s “left” and “right” wings has adopted a kind of hateful irrationality, where it has become acceptable to turn the slightest political disagreement into screaming accusations of bigotry, misogyny, conspiracy, and treason. It stands to reason that, with so many people having so many overheated emotions, it would not take much to turn this powder-keg into a bomb. But it will not result in a civil war. Not yet, anyway.

The good news is that we are in the midst of an important political correction . . . though it is a small one and it is still reversible.

In recent decades we have seen an unprecedented string of assaults on human rights, with razor-thin victories in the U.S. Supreme Court for free speech, the freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, and more. Of course there have also been razor-thin losses for private property rights and federalism. And, headed into the 2016 presidential election, there was a vacancy on the court. Justice Antonin Scalia, who was usually on the right side of these and other issues, died in February 2016, and President Barack Obama’s (D) nomination of Judge Merrick Garland stalled thanks to the hypocritical actions of the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate. . . . Continued

Brett Kavanaugh

President Donald Trump (R) will nominate Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. Kavanaugh is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Kavanaugh would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his resignation last month. Kennedy was a moderate justice, often serving as a tiebreaker between the “conservative” and “liberal” wings of the court. Kavanaugh is generally viewed as a nonpartisan and pragmatic conservative. He is a proponent of textualism, which is the judicial philosophy that the Constitution should be applied as written and not continually reinterpreted as a “living” document. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would shift the ideological balance of the court from essentially tied to a narrow conservative majority.

Kavanaugh worked as a law clerk for Judge Walter King Stapleton of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and Judge Alex Kozinski of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Later, he clerked for Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh served as an associate counsel for the Office of Independent Counsel under Kenneth Starr during the investigation of President Bill Clinton (D), and later as both legal counsel and assistant to President George W. Bush (R). He was nominated by Bush to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003, but the nomination stalled in the Senate. He was eventually confirmed following a 57-36 vote in the Senate in 2006. He was sworn-in by Kennedy, the justice who he is now being nominated to replace.

Following efforts in 2017 by Democratic senators to filibuster Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch, the Senate invoked the “nuclear option” and expanded the rules already prohibiting the filibustering of lower judicial nominees so they would also apply to Supreme Court nominations. Accordingly, Kavanaugh’s nomination will be subject to a straight up-or-down vote after being brought before the Senate.

Justice Anthony Kennedy

United States Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced he plans to retire effective July 31.

Kennedy was appointed by President Ronald Reagan (R) in 1987, and he took office in 1988 after a unanimous confirmation in the United States Senate. At the time of his confirmation, Kennedy was widely regarded by members of both major parties as a measured and fair jurist. In the decades since, he has often served as the “tie-breaker” in narrow 5-4 decisions that split the court’s “liberal” and “conservative” wings.

Kennedy has a mixed record on human and civil rights. Although he has typically ruled in support of free speech and the freedom of religion, and has ruled in favor of the right to keep and bear arms at least within the home, he also rules consistently against the fundamental right to life. In addition, Kennedy sided with the anti-rights majority in allowing governments to seize private property for private use (Kelo v. City of New London).

President Donald Trump (R) has the constitutional authority to nominate a replacement for Kennedy, and that nomination must be confirmed by the Senate. The court is currently tied with four “liberal” justices, four “conservative” justices, and Kennedy as the “swing vote.” If Trump makes a solidly conservative nomination, it would shift the ideological balance of the court to a narrow conservative majority.

DHS Active Shooter Poster

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers a wealth of materials on Ready.gov to assist Americans in preparing for—and responding to—various kinds of emergencies. Among them is guidance for dealing with an active shooter situation: “RUN, HIDE, FIGHT.” If you ever find yourself in the middle of a shooting, DHS advises that you should “RUN and escape, if possible,” “HIDE, if escape is not possible,” and “FIGHT as an absolute last resort.”

It’s not bad advice. It’s punchy, much like the unforgettable guidance that we “STOP, DROP, and ROLL” if we ever find ourselves on fire. It is practical and smart. If you learn the details of DHS’s guidance and marry it to the punchy slogan, and then you remember and follow that guidance in an emergency, you will probably survive. But it is worth remembering that our government does not have a great track record in its guidance for dealing with rare and high-profile crimes. Advice that seems perfectly sane and rational can sometimes be harmful in situations that are by nature insane and irrational.

Before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, federal Hijacking Survival Guidelines said, “Do not challenge the hijackers physically or verbally. Comply with their instructions. Do not struggle or try to escape unless you are absolutely certain of success.” It seemed like good advice at the time. And that’s exactly what the passengers on American Flight 11, United Flight 175, and American Flight 77 did. It’s what I almost certainly would have done too. And, with twenty-twenty hindsight, we now know it was the wrong thing to do. . . . Continued

Primary elections for the Democratic and Republican parties will be held on June 12, 2018. Off on a Tangent is making recommendations to party primary voters in each contested state- and federal-level primary race in Virginia.

Political parties are private organizations that should not have any official standing in our political system, but Democratic and Republican primaries are held by the Virginia Department of Elections and are funded by Virginia taxpayers. The purpose of a party primary should be for members of that party to choose who will represent them on the general election ballot. Virginia, however, has an absurd “open primary” system where any registered voter may vote in any one (but not more than one) each year.

Both the Republican and Democratic parties are making some of their nominations at party conventions; this series of recommendations only applies to primaries and caucuses. The Libertarian Party, which currently qualifies as a major party under the Tangent style guide (section 10.70), nominates all of its candidates in party conventions and is not holding any primaries or caucuses.
. . . Continued