Two short statements before we begin:
- This is not intended to be anything like an exhaustive list, only a beginning for a list I hope will grow like a tree with the addition of many branches connected but spreading in all directions.
- My primary purpose is to set down, as clearly as possible, some of the Principles which I believe trump all and every convenient political excuse for doing nothing or worse, doing the opposite because we can convince ourselves it’s expedient. There are such principles and it’s time we acknowledged them. (All Hail Chris Dodd!)
- My secondary purpose is to help foster the apparently near-lost notion that politics is about something greater than re-election. In a democracy, it is the ultimate expression of justice, mercy, and community. It is about organizing and then manifesting the common good. It is about resisting abuses of power, whether from corporations, the military, foreign enemies, or the government itself. What it is NOT about is its own perpetuation at the expense of democratic principles and/or social comity.
Principle 1: The Law and the Constitution
While one can certainly argue about various interpretations of parts of the Constitution, the one Truth which must be considered incontrovertible is that the Constitution is the foundation of the nation’s legal structure. Two hundred years+ of precedent and legal opinion rest on that foundation, and while it is neither desirable nor practical to cleave literally to everything in it – it is a document written by fallible men, after all – it is dangerous and potentially destructive to ignore it altogether.
Far worse is the idea that a single politician – the president – has either the authority or the power to re-write portions of it without the consent of the governed (that’s us, people). That contentious, not to say arrogant, belief is contrary to the very meaning and purpose of the document. To insist that the president can do such a thing is to insist that the president is a monarch, not a subject of the people but a dictator who can make his own laws – the very condition against which the Founding Fathers rebelled and which caused them to write the Constitution in the first place.
The Constitution is and was from the very beginning an attempt to enshrine in law the concept that “the just powers of the executive derive from the consent of the governed” – not from the material and possibly accidental acquisition of power, whether military, financial, or political, but from the active consent of the community and its people. To maintain (much less act) otherwise is a violation of American law so breathtaking in its extremity and its contempt for the source of American society that it MUST define such a one as totally and utterly un-American. In other words, a Traitor.
There can be no compromise here. One CANNOT be at once a believer in democracy and at the same time award – or even be willing to tolerate – the assumption of monarchic powers by the executive branch (the president) and the concomitant loss of power by the legislative and judicial branches. There is room for interpretation and compromise with regard to exactly where the lines of power are drawn, but there is NO room for unilateral assumption of such power, especially by an executive so classically ignorant of democratic principles that he doesn’t even know what they are.
There can be no compromise here because to compromise about fundamental precepts is tantamount to declaring them non-operational. That in turn is tantamount to declaring that our democracy is no longer democratic because it is no longer governed by core democratic principles. It is now an autocracy with a monachic or dictatorial leader who may conduct himself by acknowledging the will of the people or in complete defiance of it, as he wishes.
In other words, that we have denounced our 230-yr-old “experiment in democracy” and gone back to empowering a functional monarchy – that we have willfully and deliberately traded our president for a king.
It may be said that the lines between one and the other are blurred, not easily defined. In many cases that may be true, but not in all. The Bush “signing statements” in which he added, like a king, codas that said he acknowledged the law but had no duty to obey it, should have sent up Red Flags all over the country. There is no ambiguity about what he was declaring, nor any confusion about what he meant: they were bald, flat-out rejections of the legislature’s power over the executive, direct and unarguable repudiations of fundamental Constitutional law. He should have been impeached for the very first one.
And even if they had been less obvious and incontrovertible than they were, they should still have occasioned an argument in the Congress – and in the press and public – over what they meant and whether they’d gone too far. There was no such argument (except in progressive blogs).
Why not? Because the so-called “opposition party” decided it wasn’t politically expedient. Despite our hopes, now that they’re in power they continue not to think so. This is simply NOT ACCEPTABLE. As pre-Nazi Germany eventually learned to its sorrow, it isn’t possible to sell out some of your core beliefs and still survive as the society you once were. You have fundamentally altered its nature with your gutting of centuries-old law in order to placate a power-hungry dictator you’re afraid of, and fear doesn’t excuse disemboweling your civilized principles simply because it’s “expedient” and “practical”.
At some point, if you don’t draw a line in the sand and declare “this far but no further” you become a dictator-enabler, an anti-democrat. A Traitor. You may hem and haw and delay until the question is no longer debatable, but when that moment is reached you MUST stand and fight or be accounted a coward, a sell-out, a Traitor to democracy. If you do not, then you and your party – the party that goes along with you – MUST be rejected by democrats because you have betrayed everything they stand for and allied yourself with monarchists who want to return kings to their thrones and send the people packing back to the fetid serfdom from which they emerged 250 years ago.
One CANNOT be a democrat – or a Democrat – if one believes in or supports or aids the reinstitution of monarchy. That ought to be self-explanatory. That it isn’t any more is one of the great sadnesses of Bush’s sad reign.