Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Fate of the Republic

In my (not copious) spare time, I am reading Polybius' history of the Rise of the Roman empire, and a modern account of Roman history in general. What strikes me so much in reading these accounts is the relevance to modern American problems. How do you maintain a republic and an empire? The fragility of a state built primarily on a small oligarchy. The way in which conflation of legislative and executive power leads to tyranny. My reaction to Bush's assertion that the Presidency is bound by no laws in the conduct of war, and the second assertion that we are now in a permanent, universal war, is one of more than just partisan disapproval. The horror is that this is exactly how constitutional republics collapse, when the checks on absolute power are thrown aside for expediency. I am increasingly of the opinion that we are not simply in the throes of cycles of American politics (a la Schlesinger) but are actually witnessing the destruction of our constitutional order. It is not too late. Serious reform is possible. But unless a serious effort is made to reassert the values of our republic, we will find our Congress and judiciary powerless at the hands of a plebiscitary dictatorship.

Democrats need to start talking about the threat that Republicans pose to the whole Madisonian system (this discussion needs to begin amongst the intellectual circles).


Anonymous said...

Years ago an Irish lady accused the U.S. of being an Empire during a discussion we were having. And I defended against that statement at that time. Fearing the natural tendencies of Empires to fall. Not anymore, I'm now sure the U.S. is becoming an Empire with all the inevitable rhetoric.

I fear that the subtle talking points of the empire builders has infiltrated too deeply into the media stream and public conscience to turn the tide without a massive education campaign. A campaign of education illustrating what the constitution really means. Many in the public readily accept the politicians interpretations of what it means, in the same vein as ministry in a church. And not a living document for all to read for themselves. This must change, for the preservation of the Republic.


// posted by Branedy

Anonymous said...

I see some good and bad signs. Bad news first. About 30% to 40% of the population either doesn't care about the constitution or is so easily whipped up into a frenzy of xenophobic paranoia that they think of constitutional rights as a "luxury" we can't afford during "war."

The good news however is that elites within the Republican party are starting to recognize the heart of Bush's vision. Specter, Hegel and McCain are certainly on the outs within the party now but they aren't complete nobodies. They're criticism of the unchecked executive is encouraging. The problem is that when it comes down to an important vote (like with Alito) they show a dissappointing tendency to chose party loyalty over principle. Nevertheless, their criticism gives legitimacy to the criticism of Democrats in that the spineless press will report the story as one of "bi-partisan criticism" rather than a "fair and balanced" story about "party politics."

It's interesting that you are reading classic histories of the Roman empire. That was exactly the kind of thing that Madison et al read and alluded to in their arguments in favor of separating legislative and executive power and giving both a check on the other. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans