Sunday, July 16, 2006

For Thomas

Thomas Nephew, whose newsrack blog is an indefatigable source of info and discerning commentary, weighed in at the post below on the problems inherent with constitutional conventions:
"I guess I think a constitutional convention would be more likely to produce a reactionary disaster than a step forward -- too much up for grabs, too vulnerable to the unscrupulous. I think the Philadelphia constitutional convention only worked as well as it did because the participants had a shared revolution behind them; that isn't available for us.

But I don't think this forces a "long march inside the Democratic Party" though. The Constitution hasn't prevented new parties from forming or old ones from redefining themselves. I still favor making the Democrats competitive and representative, but I would not reject a 3rd party out of hand in 2012, or maybe even in 2008, the way I did in 2000."
al_goreGore Vidal, whose ebullient outrageousness seems less gratuitous and more sensible as the decades roll on, had this to say about it in his "State of the Union--1980" (links mine):
"The fact that half of those qualified to vote don't vote in the presidential elections is proof that the third republic is neither credible nor truly legitimate. The fact that the Bank's inspired invention, the so-called two-party system (which is really one single Banksparty), is now collapsing is further proof that the fourth republic will require political parties that actually represent the various groups and classes in the country and do not simply serve the Bank...

The time has come to hold another contitutional convention. Those conservatives known as liberals have always found this notion terrifying, because they are convinced that the powers of darkness will see to it that the Bill of Rights is abolished. This is always a possibility, but sometimes it's best to know the worst all at once rather than to allow those rights to be slowly taken away from us by, let us say, the present majority of the Supreme Court...

In the development of a new Constitution, serious attention should be paid to the Swiss political arrangement. Its cantonal system is something that might work for us. The United States could be divided into autonomous regions: nothern California, Oregon, and Washington would make a fine Social Democratic society, while the combined states of Texas, Arizona, and Oklahoma could bring back slavery and the minstrel show. There ought to be something for everybody to choose from in the United States, rather than the current homogenized overcentralized state that the Bank has saddled us with. The Swiss constitution has another attractive feature: the citizens have the right to hold a referendum and rescind, if they choose, a law. No need for a Howard Jarvis to yodel in the wilderness: The Jarvis Effect would be institutionalized.

Ideally, the fourth republic should abandon the presidential system for a parliamentary one. The leader of a majority in Congress would form the government. Out of respect for the rocks at Mount Rushmore, we would retain the office of president, but the president would be a figurehead and not what he is today---a dictator who is elected by half of half the people from a very short list given to them by the Banksparty."
Vidal's somewhat tongue-in-cheek analysis remains fresh after 26 years. It's a depressing reminder of how little we have changed, except to sink ever deeper into the mire of a governmental system that, while continuing to work in fits and starts, is inexorably grinding to a seize-up.

I admit it: I'm sick of it all. When I hauled out my long-buried optimism about the possibility of reversing the aristocracizing of America during the last election, I was stunned that Bush was returned to office, and what I have seen on my local front as those near to me have involved themselves in politics has made me all but despair of any hope. This was my response to Thomas, in comments:
"But after being sold down the river by even Dems I thought we could trust (locally, Allyson Schwartz voted for the Bankruptcy Bill, and nationally the majority rolled on their backs when the vote to grant unrestrained power to wage war was given to George Bush), I don't believe many of them can be trusted at all anymore. Can the party be saved? Maybe. But to do so would require the kind of wholesale changes to the electoral system that would allow outsiders and poor people to campaign. In my neck of the woods, there is a concerted effort by the Democratic machine to rebuff all attempts to run for any office at all if you haven't been vetted and approved by the county Commission. On a more statewide level, the attempts of Chuck Pinnacchio and Alan Sandals to run for office were deep-sixed by Chuck Schumer and Ed Rendell long before the primary ever got off the ground, so now I've got a Democratic candidate to represent PA in the Senate that was hand-picked by a New Yorker who ran the machine. This is not representative government. This is puppetry."
I'm open to suggestions.

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