Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Courtesy of Zemblan patriot B.K.: At Truthout, Sterling Newberry argues that American political debate has taken on a distinctly constitutional cast: we may be on the verge of a new res publica, "in which the changes made to our constitutional order to accommodate the New Deal are under threat, and constitutional balancing mechanisms, such as the filibuster, are under attack." The chief architect of the assault on the old public order is Karl Rove, and his tactics can be summed up in three words -- Bash, Break, and Borrow:
Everything the Republicans do is part of this three-tier attack: everything advances bashing, breaking or borrowing. Each requires a different, but linked, response. The idea of constitutional crisis is not far from the public's mind, even though those words are never spoken in the broadcast media. The very notion of talking about 75 year consequences and "infinite time horizons" is the modern equivalent of "our posterity" and "indissoluble union." When people talk about forever, they are talking about the constitutional arrangements which bind them together . . . .
Rove's agenda then is to take his vision of a different constitutional order, and marry it to political tactics that work within that order. He is attempting to make a coherent set of changes that will force governments that come after this one to adhere to the broad outlines of the kind of state that is now being established. These outlines include a nation that props up the stock market as the place where people keep most of their savings, much as uninsured banks were the place people kept their savings before the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was established in 1933 as part of the "First Hundred Days." And a nation that has a very different relationship to God than before. The God of the old order was a symbolic one, to which the nation gave thanks, but, as Roosevelt outlined in the Four Freedoms speech in 1941, according to the freedom of their own conscience. The God of Rove's Republic is a very different sort, a figure that is the source of punitive law, and that overrides any other agreements or laws.
The political tactics rest squarely on the permission that this different conception of God rests upon; rather than the government being charged with insuring plenty, it is charged with ensuring conformity. The upholders of the faith are also the political enforcers of the Republican Party. To win the Republican Party's nomination for President, as Senator Bill Frist is trying to do now, requires securing its good graces. And it is Rove's intent to create a permanent political coalition where only a Republican can win the White House.
Rove entered the White House believing that this was a constitutional moment, and many of the people who have opposed Bush from the beginning believed it as well. And now, perhaps belatedly, it has become generally understood that this moment is one in which the basic nature of our government is in play, where the very stuff of the constitution is open to being shaped by the decisions that are made, or left unmade.