Mea culpa

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Fasten your seatbelts, America.  You’re in for a bumpy night.

Plainly, I’ve let this blog lapse for far too long.  The  United States seemed to be a stable place when I started it back in 2014.  To be sure, foreign policy was disintegrating at a rapid clip, particularly in Syria.  But all seemed more or less normal at home.  Barack Obama’s approval rating by the end of the year was a respectable 48 percent, Hillary Clinton was living quietly in Chappaqua, Bernie Sanders was an obscure senator from Vermont, while Donald Trump was still a hugely entertaining buffoon whom no one took seriously.

 

Since then, a few things have changed.  Obama is writing his memoirs and giving speeches on Wall Street, Clinton is in semi-exile, Sanders is gearing up for 2020, and instead of holding forth on “The Apprentice,” Trump now does so from the Oval Office.  Politics have cratered, particularly on the Democratic side of the aisle where idiots like Adam Schiff and Chuck Schumer have passed the GOP on the right when it comes to beating the drums for a new Cold War with Russia.  The infighting on Capitol Hill has intensified as Republicans charge their opponents with attempting to drive Trump from office and liberals fire back that anyone saying any such thing is clearly on the Kremlin payroll.  While no one knows where all this will end, the one certainty is that the breakdown can only intensify.

 

All of which is perfectly in keeping with my thesis, first propounded in my 1996 book, The Frozen Republic, that America’s 1787 constitutional arrangement has entered the last stages of senility and that a massive overhaul is both overdue and impossible under anything resembling present circumstances.  Only a clean sweep will do, one proceeding from the assumption that the Constitution is hopelessly out of date along with the ideological assumptions behind it.  If history has an iron rule, it’s that change is unstoppable and that any attempt to halt the process only insures that it will be all the more radical when it finally arrives.  Yet this is just what the US has attempted to do by tying society up in a constitutional straitjacket for close to a quarter of a millennium.  Now that the arrangement is coming undone, we will all have a chance to see what happens when the old rules collapse and society is forced to begin again from scratch.

 

There is much to explore here, e.g. the relationship between political structure and economics, the role of law amid a growing constitutional breakdown, and so on.  Meanwhile, we can all sit back and watch as the gaudy spectacle unfolds.  Will Trump fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller?  Or will Mueller save his own neck by forgetting about Russiagate and charging former FBI Director James Comey with perjury by falsely introducing the famous Steele dossier as evidence before a federal court?  How long before the war of nerves in Washington leads to fighting in the streets?  And what will the effect of a growing blowout on Wall Street?  (Hint: it can only cause the crisis to intensify.

 

Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night….

 

2 thoughts on “Mea culpa

  1. Curious what you think about Bruce Ackerman’s “We the People” series, which argues that the US has undergone three periods of revolutionary reform, each time drawing from existing practices and constitutional frameworks to make drastic alterations to the meaning of the document and sometimes, via amendments, the text itself (with the exception of the founding, though that did draw from earlier documents and practices that were precursors to the current constitution). Is the energy all used up? Nothing left but to pitch the whole thing and start over?

  2. Basically, I agree with Ackerman’s thesis. The antebellum US was a kind of common market that a tiny planter elite was able to dominatel via the three-fifths clause in the House, equal state representation in the Senate, the Electoral College, plus Section 4.3 giving Congress power to admit new states. The result was a stalemate, not to mention a growing minority dictatorship on the burgeoning democratic masses in the North. But then a revolutionary explosion in the 1860s shattered the old arrangement and replaced it with something more along the lines of a unitary nation-state. The New Deal ushered in a third republic in which the executive, backed by the legislative branch, exercised unprecedented control over economic and social policy. One might even argue, pace Ackerman, that the 1960s constituted yet another quasi-revolutionary moment when the courts took emergency measures to reform civil liberties and civil rights. But that was half a century go. Now the Supreme Court is a spent force, Congress is a nightmare of gridlock and corruption, while the presidency is in crisis due to election misfires in 2000 and 2016. So where would a new Ackerman-style reconstitution come from? I suppose Bernie Sanders might have imposed a new model had he been elected, but I think the results would more likely have been civil war. So, yeah, I think the energy really is all used up. After 230 years, the American republic is as played out as the Venetian Republic in 1799 when the Grand Council couldn’t even muster the energy to surrender to Napoleon and instead just melted away.

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