Hurricane Donald, Hurricane Bob
Political discourse has suffered in the past two years.
One of my favorite books is The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin. It's a bit aged now, but it provides a somewhat exhaustive history of the Supreme Court. I didn't actually read it, but listened on audiobook on my frequent drives (a great option for those who enjoy storytelling). One of my favorite parts of the book is when Toobin discusses the judicial philosophy and history of Sandra Day O'Connor, one of my favorite and most treasured opinions in the history of the Court.
O'Connor is a Republican, but she denies all labels and is wildly independent. She is not the typical picture of a Supreme Court Justice. Her vote was coveted by both sides, and she enjoyed a huge amount of judicial power as the pre-Anthony Kennedy swing vote. She did not come from the coastal elite political class (born to a Texas rancher), and had to struggle to attend and graduate law school, being a woman in a time where women were not offered opportunities in the legal field. She graduated third in her class at Stanford Law, behind only the future Chief Justice of the United States, Rehnquist, and one other student. She did not attend an ivy league school. She did not even come from the federal bench at the time she was appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States. This was all something that remains anomalous for Supreme Court Justices.
That is why I like her. She provided a different perspective: a former state legislator, state appellate judge, and a female from the heartland. She also employed a unique heuristic for evaluating opinions and arguments. Her favorite word to use in an opinion was "unattractive." She would judge an advocate's argument as "attractive" or "unattractive." It was a thought process that focused equally on aesthetics and merits, and ensured that a result from the Court would be appealing and courteous, as well as functional and brilliant. It is a process that acknowledges that how something is said oftentimes matters just as much, or more, than what is said. It is a way of thinking that we are now missing in our politics.
Today, politicians and politics-watchers on both sides have forgotten O'Connor's way of thinking, but I think it is the cure to what currently ails the political system. I think this project is a part of getting back to this lost heuristic. Looking at divisive and important issues is something that does not need to be unattractive. It is something that can and should be attractive, because it should be something that should give the deference of courtesy to those with whom we disagree, ensuring that the presentation of our opinions remains attractive.
This is not something that is solely a problem of Republicans and Democrats, but, as evidenced from this week's Twitter Hurricane season, something that can be intraparty. This week we all watched as the media on both sides publicized an adolescent war of words from a seasoned Republican Senator, Bob Corker, and the Republican President of the United States, Donald Trump. Both sides flung mud at the other and engaged in a multitude of insults centered around endorsements, running for another term, and their respective demeanors and maturities. This is unattractive.