Summary: Slowly the quite coup in motion becomes visible to Americans. One by one. Unfortunately we’re still early in the problem recognition stage, while the coup advances rapidly. Here are three articles, milestones along the road away from the Second Republic to our new political regime (not yet visible).
These are scary articles. But they have no impact because the essence of a democracy’s fall is that its people lose the capacity for self-government. We evolve from citizens to subjects (“consumers”). The reins of power slip from our hands, but we don’t care. One by one our rights are re-interpreted into powerlessness, but we don’t care.
- “The Quiet Coup”, Simon Johnson, The Atlantic, May 2009
- “The Big-Lie Coup d’Etat”, Robert Reich, 5 June 2012
- “SCOTUS Update: La Loi, C’est Moi”, James Fallows, The Atlantic, 24 June 2012
Please read all of these in full! Then do something. The clock is running on the Constitution.
(1) “The Quiet Coup“, Simon Johnson (former chief economist of the IMF), The Atlantic, May 2009 — Summary:
The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government — a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises.
If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.
(2) “The Big-Lie Coup d’Etat“, Robert Reich, 5 June 2012
… I fear that at least since 2010 we’ve been witnessing a quiet, slow-motion coup d’etat whose purpose is to repeal every bit of progressive legislation since the New Deal and entrench the privileged positions of the wealthy and powerful — who haven’t been as wealthy or as powerful since the Gilded Age of the late 19th century.
Its technique is to inundate America with a few big lies, told over and over (the debt is Obama’s fault and it’s out of control; corporations and the very rich are the “job creators” that need tax cuts; government is the enemy, and its regulations are strangling the private sector; unions are bad; and so on), and tell them so often they’re taken as fact.
Then having convinced enough Americans that these lies are true, take over the White House, Congress, and remaining states that haven’t yet succumbed to the regressive right (witness Tuesday’s recall election in Wisconsin).
I desperately hope I’m wrong, but all there’s growing evidence I may be right.
(3) “SCOTUS Update: La Loi, C’est Moi“, James Fallows, The Atlantic, 24 June 2012
Normally I shy away from apocalyptic readings of the American predicament. We’re a big, messy country; we’ve been through a lot — perhaps even more than we thought, what with Abraham Lincoln and the vampires. We’ll probably muddle through this and be very worried about something else ten years from now.
But when you look at the sequence from Bush v. Gore, through Citizens United, to what seems to be coming on the health-care front; and you combine it with ongoing efforts in Florida and elsewhere to prevent voting from presumably Democratic blocs; and add that to the simply unprecedented abuse of the filibuster in the years since the Democrats won control of the Senate and then took the White House, you have what we’d identify as a kind of long-term coup if we saw it happening anywhere else.**
Liberal democracies like ours depend on rules but also on norms — on the assumption that you’ll go so far, but no further, to advance your political ends. The norms imply some loyalty to the system as a whole that outweighs your immediate partisan interest. Not red states, nor blue states, but the United States of America. It was out of loyalty to the system that Al Gore stepped aside after Bush v. Gore. Norms have given the Supreme Court its unquestioned legitimacy. The Roberts majority is barreling ahead without regard for the norms, and it is taking the court’s legitimacy with it.
… ** You can try this at home. Pick a country and describe a sequence in which:
- First, the presidential election is decided by five people, who don’t even try to explain their choice in normal legal terms.
- Then the beneficiary of that decision appoints the next two members of the court, who present themselves for consideration as restrained, humble figures who care only about law rather than ideology.
- Once on the bench, for life, those two actively second-guess and re-do existing law, to advance the interests of the party that appointed them.
- Meanwhile their party’s representatives in the Senate abuse procedural rules to an extent never previously seen to block legislation — and appointments, especially to the courts.
- And, when a major piece of legislation gets through, the party’s majority on the Supreme Court prepares to negate it — even though the details of the plan were originally Republican proposals and even though the party’s presidential nominee endorsed these concepts only a few years ago.
How would you describe a democracy where power was being shifted that way?
Update: Underscoring the point, a Bloomberg poll of 21 constitutional scholars found that 19 of them believe the individual mandate is constitutional, but only eight said they expected the Supreme Court to rule that way. The headline nicely conveys the reality of the current Court: “Obama Health Law Seen Valid, Scholars Expect Rejection.”
For more information
See all posts about this at the FM Reference Page America – how can we stop the quiet coup now in progress?
Posts about our courts:
- See the last glimmers of the Constitution’s life…, 27 June 2008 — A last bit of good news from the Supreme Court.
- The sky darkens over America, as we (the little people) are made smaller than we were last week, 24 January 2010
- The Feds decide who to lock up for life (not just at Guantanamo), another nail in the Constitution’s coffin, 2 June 2010
- Why should we care about the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing strip & cavity searches of prisoners?, 5 April 2012
- Please applaud this brave judge. We have too few of them in America today., 18 May 2012
- More death throes of the Constitution. Nothing remains in the ruins but politics., 20 June 2012