Sandy Levinson continues to pine for a Constitutional Convention to fix our ‘broken system.’ He notes he’s just affirming his long standing position, one we’ve discussed at length here as well. It’s unfortunate he cuddles up to David Brook’s hush puppy bleat to join him on the Tennis Courts.
Levinson, whom we’ve respected for 20 plus years, is in some ways another, much smarter, Larry Wilkerson – both consumed with process. Recall Wilkerson’s pathetic arguments after his firing in 2005 (not before, mind you) that amending the 1947 National Security Act would halt future Cheneys/Addingtons/Scooters/Rumsfelds/Feiths/etc. from by-passing the orderly flow of paper work and inter-departmental consultation. Who knew Addington would have been halted in his tracks with just one more statute to ignore?
Utter idiotic claptrap and nonsense, of course. We here together for years understood the essence of the Warlord’s regime: *the law didn’t matter*. Even adding 1,000 more pages to the U.S. Code? Meaningless. Note that our disdain for Wilkerson is not limited to this website. We’ve said this to his face and exposed his ignorance at fora. He continues to shine at his full 15 watt potential.
Similarly, the much brighter Levinson, so-so Larry Sabato and now Brooks claim process will fix an obviously broken government. Once again, Levinson adopted the external political science approach rather than an internal legal one.
Levinson acknowledges concern about calling the Estates-General in today’s polarized political environment. But not enough. Like Wilkerson, Levinson fails to understand true political radical reality (we say this with kindness, he is an accomplished professor, not political operative). If Levinson ever worked on the Hill for a period of time and participated in electoral processes, he would see that the U.S. government is not paralyzed *because* of a flawed Constitution but in *spite* of it. More clever drafting of Constitution 2.0 (with a Bill of Tweets? Lord help us) will not address our underlying problem – the societal collapse of ‘virtue’ (per Douglas Adair), belief in republican liberal democracy or even ward room Dahl-esque pluralistic politics.
Assume one could re-write the Constitution along the lines Levinson suggests. Assume again Christian Socialist Authoritarian efforts to hijack the country’s DNA are rebuffed. Still, only deck chairs are moved. No piece of paper can mandate responsible outcomes. The fragmented Movement merely will game the new framework. 10 years? 5? 20? Eventually we will be back here. Efforts to seek better outcomes merely by changing the Constitution are akin to a substance abuser who moves to a new city thinking everything will be different.
Mr. Armey: Tax Cuts, If You Can Keep Them!
A liberal democratic republic will exist only when its people and representatives subscribe to those underlying ideals and notions. The Left [sic], progressives and decimated moderate Republicans allowed them to die largely undefended. Even in 2010 they collectively still don’t really understand what they are up against. Our government fails because its institutions have lost self-identity, something we predicted would happen under the Counter Enlightenment ideological government of 2001-2008. They can operate – even with people like Shelby and the filibuster problem – if collective institutional memory and will exist. Both don’t. More importantly, the American people must step up. A Constitution 2.0 will be meaningless without that fundamental change at the societal level. Changing the rules merely shifts how the Movement’s nihilist game plays out. The same conditions that would enable Constitution 2.0 to function also render it moot.
That’s the hard truth the ‘Left [sic]‘ is only now recognizing. (We here have all been discussing this for 6 years now). A substantial portion of the American people don’t believe in or want liberal democracy. They will play along to gain power but reject investment in the system should they lose. Once the Movement tasted unfetted power 2001-2008 it refuses to go back on a Ken Duberstein-esque leash. No Constitution 2.0 can accommodate that. It’s the anti-Bruce Ackerman ‘High Constitutional Moment.’ No liberal democracy can function so without descending to Weimar feebleness, contempt and vulnerability to a Man on a White Horse.
Levinson perhaps can visit CPAC. He can watch Tea Partiers on cable. Superficial tourism – like suggesting someone can conduct a real federal trial based on watching CSI. Until he, Sabato et al. are immersed in the Movement at the actual granular level, none of them can understand how irresponsible it is to urge everyone onto the Tennis Court. The question is who plays Danton.
Republics are finite. History tells us that. We are way past America’s ‘Machiavellian Moment’ – Pocock’s examination of how a Republic confronts a crisis of ideals and self-awareness. Sandy, before you open up the Constitution on the Tennis Court, think twice about stepping through that dark doorway. None of us have any idea what will emerge.
A precondition to any successful Constitutional Convention? Advocates of Constitution 2.0 first must make every concerted effort to remind the American people of their inheritance. What is it to be a liberal democratic republic? Do people want a republic as much if not more than those determined to tear it down? A republic is not $19.95 DVD players from Shanghai, tax cuts or sectarian/authoritarian cults. Franky, we don’t think the Academy and others are up to the job. If they were, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.