Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Frighteningly True

When our Constitution was written, born of the sort of compromise now seen as ideological heresy by that part of the Republican party now wagging all dogs, it's clear none of the writers foresaw the emergence of such nihilism as we now see in teabaggRs. Turns out, our Constitutional government with its separate powers is an illusion, exposed when there emerged people willing to exploit its weakness with no regard for, much less understanding of, the consequences. It ran on a presumption of good will and a sense of common purpose, even in the face of disagreement. As when the Constitution was written. Now, it's meaningless. Turns out, people who carry copies of it in their pockets and wave them around like a flasher at a city park, couldn't actually care less about it. Claiming the opposite, and too power-hungry to recognize the difference, they're burning it down like the mere piece of parchment it always was.

For a really chilling explication of all this, one that requires only minimal reflection to see its truth, read this commentary by Jonathan Chait:

.... The debt ceiling turns out to be unexploded ordnance lying around the American form of government. Only custom or moral compunction stops the opposition party from using it to nullify the president’s powers, or, for that matter, the president from using it to nullify Congress’s. (Obama could, theoretically, threaten to veto a debt ceiling hike unless Congress attaches it to the creation of single-payer health insurance.) To weaponize the debt ceiling, you must be willing to inflict harm on millions of innocent people. It is a shockingly powerful self-destruct button built into our very system of government, but only useful for the most ideologically hardened or borderline sociopathic. But it turns out to be the perfect tool for the contemporary GOP: a party large enough to control a chamber of Congress yet too small to win the presidency, and infused with a dangerous, millenarian combination of overheated Randian paranoia and fully justified fear of adverse demographic trends. ... Boehner himself is thus the one weak link in the House Republicans’ ability to carry out a kind of rolling coup against the Obama administration. Unfortunately, Boehner’s control of his chamber is tenuous enough that, like the ailing monarch of a crumbling regime, it’s impossible to strike an agreement with him in full security it will be carried out... 
... How to settle this dispute? Here is where Linz’s analysis rings chillingly true: “There is no democratic principle on the basis of which it can be resolved, and the mechanisms the Constitution might provide are likely to prove too complicated and aridly legalistic to be of much force in the eyes of the electorate.” This is a fight with no rules. The power struggle will be resolved as a pure contest of willpower.  
In our Founders’ defense, it’s hard to design any political system strong enough to withstand a party as ideologically radical and epistemically closed as the contemporary GOP. (Its proximate casus belli—forestalling the onset of universal health insurance—is alien to every other major conservative party in the industrialized world.) The tea-party insurgents turn out to be right that the Obama era has seen a fundamental challenge to the constitutional order of American government. They were wrong about who was waging it.

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