Friday, November 18, 2016

Policies Make Politics

Mark Tushnet

One thing that's understandably been neglected in writing about the prospects of a unified Republican government with Trump as president is that we can expect the enactment of policies aimed, not at paying off supporters or fulfilling promises (or violating rights -- which may fall into either or both of those categories), but rather at weakening components of the Democratic coalition. The model is the project of defunding the left, which -- in its most interesting aspects -- didn't involve simply denying federal funds to things associated with the left but instead involved the adoption of "substantive" policies whose effect was as I've described. The most obvious recent examples are the attacks on class actions and class arbitration, whose effect, when successful, is to make plaintiff-side trial lawyers less able to support Democrats with campaign contributions. Friedrichs-type litigation and the promotion of charter schools are other examples. It might be helpful for people on "our" side to think about what other policies might have that effect, and begin to frame the discussion of those policies not (only) with reference to their wisdom as policy (or lack thereof), but with reference to their mostly intended political effects. (For the record, I don't think that defunding Planned Parenthood is an interesting example of how policies make politics in the sense I'm intending -- mostly because the interesting examples involve substantive policies rather than funding policies. But I'm open to persuasion, etc.)

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