Do people listen to historians? The Electoral College, Trump, Putin, civil liberties, and Aleppo.


Although I have been blogging often about the Hamilton Electors, like most people I’ve agreed all along that their hope of preventing Trump’s inauguration is a longshot. Why? Professor Sidney Plotkin has a good succinct essay today in Salon explaining why the Electoral College no longer serves its original purpose, and in fact is controlled by party mechanisms. I think his explanation of that original purpose (while accurate) fails to focus on the bottom line fact that it was about preventing the masses from making a bad choice. He also argues that Hamilton’s explanation of the Electoral College (which we have seen quoted so much recently) was an “after the fact” defense of it. Not exactly. The Federalist Papers were written to explain the Constitution in order to promote and bring about its ratification, so there is nothing “after the fact” about it. Still, I agree that they probably envisioned the college would be so divided that the vote would usually get thrown back to the House of Representatives. Will that happen on Monday? Again, it is highly unlikely, but if it does, it will be very interesting to hear how those that advocate for “original intent” will react.

Did you see that some 1200 historians and other scholars (affiliated with hundreds of colleges and universities across the U.S) have issued a statement expressing “concern and alarm” over the First Amendment implications of Trump’s election? Using specific history lessons to make their point, they argue that we could be looking at 4 years of attacks on civil liberties such as “freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and equality.” They conclude by calling on all Americans to be “vigilant” in looking for and aggressively challenging any attempts to restrict our rights. I support their effort, but sadly, it will likely have little impact. People always quote the cliché that “those they fail to learn from their history are doomed to repeat it,” and yet when the professional historical community spoke up in massive numbers warning against a Trump presidency, he won anyway. So I have to wonder if this public statement will do any good, because clearly people don’t seem to be listening to us. On the other hand, I suspect that they are listening, but that the condemnation of Trump by the scholarly community only helped him get elected.

If anything, this election showed how mankind is unwillingly to learn from historians.

Further making the point are the events going on in Aleppo right now. The US Holocaust Museum has pointed out this week that history is once again seemingly being ignored. “Half a century after the end of World War II,” Carson Hudson (one of the museum’s professional historians) said, “the world has still not learned the lessons of the Holocaust. Syria today proves that the international community has failed to make atrocity prevention a factor in its policymaking in this crisis.”

History might judge us harshly for this, and there is plenty of blame to go around. Yes, Assad is the primary person to blame, but Putin definitely is as well, as his fighter jets and missiles have flattened the place, killing untold numbers of civilians (as he has a history of doing).  This is a bad hombre, and the fact that a guy like him seems to be a comrade of Trump, as well as a big fan of the President-elect’s pick for Secretary of State, is terrifying.

Still, Obama is far from clean in this whole mess, as the US played a role in creating the chaotic situation there (by understandably remaining restrained in our involvement) but have done nothing as yet to help. If things are this bad now, how worse might they get under a President-elect that is too busy making a victory lap to even tweet about the situation, has made it clear that he wants to keep Syrian refugees out of the US, and who is apparently Putin’s choice for our president?

Which brings us to today’s Christmas-related link. Given the nature of today’s post, perhaps this is the most appropriate thing to conclude with:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s