Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Notes from a constitutional crisis

About a couple of weeks ago I put up a post that bitched about how modern "conservatism", as embodied by the U.S. Republican party, had 1) no viable policies that didn't effectively promise a New Gilded Age of concentrated wealth and widespread poverty, and 2) no intention of allowing the United States to function unless if functioned in such a way as to enact their policies.

For this I was called "unconvincing" and "meanspirited".


What I find insanely frustrating is that while I don't expect all Americans to agree with me that the current GOP is completely bughouse politically - there were all sorts of people in this country who believed in slavery, after all; "say what you want, at least it's an ethos..." - I would expect them to agree that our current system of government, flawed as it may be, is generally superior to a dictatorship.

But...refusing to accept the governance of people who don't share your political views is just exactly that. It's what dictators do; they use force to prevent those who disagree with them from effectively disagreeing with them.

That this has become the default position of one of the only two political parties we allow ourselves is madness. That this madness is not routinely characterized as such by the public press in tones of the utmost horror is beyond madness.

Damn near a third of my "fellow citizens" are objectively in love with dictatorship providing that they (or their political surrogates) get to be the dictator.

I have no idea what may come of this.

But it cannot be anything good.


Ael said...

I do not concede that the American form of government is necessarily better than a dictatorship. A well run dictatorship can transform countries for the better. See Taiwan, Korea and even Singapore. The major benefit of democracies (that they do "transitions" better and thus avoid civil wars) has failed in the past for the USA.

And no, it isn't a constitutional crisis. Checks and balances are the way the system is *designed*. Lemieux is hyperventilating.

FDChief said...

I'm not sure what to say in reply to this, other than that the "well run" thing depends on you definition of "well". If you are not part of the dictator's favorites it is unlikely that things will go "well" for you.

And given that the functioning of any popular democracy pretty much depends on an orderly acceptance of defeat by the losing party/parties if one party does not allow to winners to govern that isn't a "check" or "balance", that's abrogating the system entirely. If I know my political opponents will not allow me - not "fight me for a compromise" but flat-out refuse to let the system work if it works in my favor - why should I trust the system at all? If that's not a constitutional crisis, what is? This isn't judicial review or the House exercising the power of the purse. This is not doing what the constitution says has to happen for the system to work at all.

How do you recommend this DOES work out, short of utter liberal surrender?

FDChief said...

A perfect example of what I'm talking about is the Roosevelt Administration's court-packing defeat in '37. Even his own party defected from FDR in Congress and he wound up expending a shit-ton of political capital and got absolutely nothing out of it other than accusations of despotism and tyranny.

But...he got what he wanted simply by presiding long enough to appoint eight out of the nine justices.

A Republican and Southern Democrat coalition, already energized by defeating FDR's court-packing, could very well have refused to "consent" to his appointments, much less failed to even perform their "advise and consent" function at all. They didn't; they approved every one of his appointees. Fuckadoo, Hugo Black's approval came within a year of the court-packing defeat and Black was a Grand Whackakleagle of the goddamn Ku Klux Klan or something.

So I repeat; if the party that was defeated in the presidential election refuses to accede to the "will of the people" and carry out the functions of the federal government as prescribed in the Constitution and through historical use then I cannot see a legal remedy. That, IMO, is the very definition of a "constitutional crisis".

We will see if the Congressional GOP chooses to burn the house down rather than let the new tenant decorate the rooms. But, if they do...

FDChief said...

It's not just Lemieux, either. Pretty much everybody who's been watching the GOP is seeing this. Here's Chait on the subject:


If this irredentism is, in fact, a generational problem I don't know how the federal government "works". Like I said; these aren't "checks and balances". "Checks and balances" is a way to prevent one of the branches from becoming overpowerful. This is pure dysfunction. And dysfunction, in a popular government, is a strong motivator for a resort to autocracy.

But yes, I know, I know, autocracy is "good".


Ael said...

Every Senator is also there because of the "will of the people". Constitution says "advise and consent". No consent means no judge. Getting to consent is left as an exercise for the participants. All sorts of games can be played in getting to consent and the American people are the ultimate arbitrators over the entire process.

Seems to me like the system is working as designed. And in fact, it is *deliberately* designed for dysfunction, assuming that the elected people will find a way to make it all work, or the electorate will throw the bums out and get some people who can make it all work.

I don't see a reason for immediate panic

FDChief said...

Because, as I noted above; the Senate IS supposed to "advise and consent", not sit with its partisan thumb up its backside doing nothing. That level of obstruction is absolutely unprecedented in U.S. history. Seriously; even in 1859 the Southern Democrats continued working in Congress as precedent had mandated until the moment they walked out to form a new nation.

Do you get it? This IS a reason for immediate panic. This is like nothing we've ever seen before. There's no tradition, no formal or legal means of dealing with a Senate that won't allow a sitting President to appoint agents of his choice. This has NEVER happened before.

I know I keep coming back to this but it's utterly critical; expectation of transfer of power is what keeps everyone in the system. That's why, fuck Singapore, autocracy is not a good deal for most people. Because there's no way for those on the outside to get in short of force.

The U.S. system is flawed in a number of ways (don't get me started on "first past the post" voting) but particularly in that it depends on all parties committing to the legitimacy of the others. It depends on those parties honoring the procedural norms and letting their opponents rule if they win.

The one time that didn't happen in our past was in the mid-19th Century, and that was because slavery was a pretty clear moral bright line. There was no "sorta" or "kinda" owning a human being. There was no way to meet partway, and there were too many people who wanted to keep the "right" to own people to do as Britain did and simply outlaw it.

What's frustrating about this is that the GOP is committed to breaking our system over ridiculous nonsense. Abortion and homosexuality and AR-15s and tax cuts and repealing the Clean Water Act. Slavery? Yeah, I get that was a nation-breaking deal.

Telling Molly she has to carry to term? Wanting another six AK-47 knockoffs? Fear that your 600-million-buck estate may get hit with a death tax? Fuck, you're gonna break the system rather than be okay with some or all of that..?

And that's what it is, Ael; a Senate that refuses to seat, or even consider, a President's appointees? THAT breaks the system.

And, since we have no fucking idea where to go from there other than Civil War, that's kind of a good reason to panic.