Sunday, April 3, 2011
I usually don't get into Constitutional issues much because I'm convinced the Constitution under which the Government supposedly operates is a gross anachronism that needs to be scrapped and done over. As long as the Constitution and the Founders are revered as models for the present and the future rather than historical consideration and study, things will continue down their path to perdition.
That's as may be.
What got me laughing uproariously this morning (again) was the spectacle of Eric Cantor, Republican Majority Leader of the House of Representatives of the United States of America, blathering at some length about how the House will enact legislation that will stipulate that if the Senate does not act on the Budget Continuing Resolution, the House passed HR 1 budget bill will become law.
What's wrong with this picture?
Of course. According to the Constitution, the House cannot enact a law unilaterally. Something about checks and balances, I'm not sure. But the point is that no act becomes law without the assent of both the Senate and the President of the United States. This is engraven on the Golden Plates of the Constitution Itself. It is Doctrine. It cannot be overridden or changed by the whim of the Majority Leader -- or anyone else for that matter.
But here is this clown going on about how the House by its own self can -- and according to him, will -- declare and enact measures into law when and how it chooses.
Lawrence O'Donnell had one of his patented aneurysms over it (h/t C & L), but he seems really to have missed the point.
If, as seems to be the case, Cantor et al in the House believe they can enact legislation on the House's say-so alone, then it's not the ignorance and stupidity of the Republicans we should be fretting over. It is the fact that they are quite consciously precipitating a coup d'état, rather like the one Newt Gingrich tried to precipitate back in the '90's -- wasn't able to pull it off completely, though -- his inspiration being the Glorious Revolution in England in 1688 in which the House of Commons effectively deposed a King and put new monarchs on the throne, as well as essentially re-writing the "unwritten" British Constitution to assert the priority of Parliament in all things.
They didn't call a messy convention or bother with silly amendments. They just did it.
And that seems to be what the Republicans are up to these days. Not solely in DC, either. We're seeing it all over the place, most prominently in the MidWestern states, but not limited to them by any means.
Republicans in authority -- primarily governors, but as we see in this example, pretty much anyone -- simply declare their authority and act on it, and then they dare anyone to do anything about it.
They have calculated that nine times out of ten, no one will, or if they try, no one will do anything the Rs in authority must to pay attention to.
It's how the Busheviks operated; it is now ingrained in the Republican Party as if it had always been this way. It is the New Normal.
I was arguing years ago that the Constitution had been, for all intents and purposes, discarded by the Government (regardless of Party in nominal charge) and that trying to get it back in force was a fool's game. The era of Constitutional Self-Government in this country was over. We were descending into an Autocracy.
True enough. But we see that the descent is chaotic. Discarding the Constitution is one thing. Putting nothing in its place besides the exercise of raw power -- as we're seeing all over the country -- is a highly disruptive, and of course dangerous, exercise.
Cantor isn't ignorant. My bet is he knows exactly what he's doing. You push something radical -- such as unilateral House enactment of legislation -- and... you get your way. Soon enough. Radicalism becomes the New Normal, and after a while nobody gives it a second thought.
That's what happened during the Bush years, and that's what's happening now.
All the "push" is and has been coming from the Rightists, though.
The so-called "Left" is only able to hang on to scraps -- if that -- of What Used To Be.
As I tried to say in Thursday's post (which I must re-write for coherence at least!), the Left needs to stop reacting to the Rightists and get out front of issues. Boldly "push" in the other direction by calling forth A Better Future.
Let's say that the entire political system is captive of the Rightists -- that seems obvious, but too often we act as if it weren't so.
Then the necessity is to act outside the political system for A Better Future, and indeed if need be, the necessity is to create an entire alternative System -- effectively a parallel Government.
Assuming that only the only Possible System is the current one means that the Rightists who control it all now and who are making a radical putsch as we speak have been handed Ultimate Victory without a fight at all. So long as there is no alternative even imaginable, the Rightists win by default. When you're playing on their turf by their rules, they win.
So the trick is to imagine -- and then do -- Something Else Again. It's both easier and much harder than it looks. It's not something for the faint of heart to engage in. Nor is it something that necessarily leads to any short term gain at all. In fact, there may be enormous short-term losses.
But ultimately, if the quest for A Better Future is sincere and sustained, it will become the New Normal -- in place of the monstrous "vision" of the Rightists for a permanent Corporatist Autocracy.
This is how these things work.
A starting place for envisioning A Better Future might be FDR's Second Bill of Rights. Just as a way of looking at things you understand. It's not the answer; it's an approach.