Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Spinelessness in Perspective

As some have already pointed out on these here intertubes, what has been happening lately with our imperial executive is a breakdown of the Madisonian scheme to prevent power from accumulating in the hands of one person or group of people. The spineless Democrats in Congress certainly are to blame, as is the media.

The Democrats are accused of being spineless for political reasons, nu? From the point of view of the Federalist Papers (in particular #51 ... btw, if the Constitution is our secular Torah, would the Federalist Papers be our Mishna?, and the collected works of Parson Weems, et al., our secular Midrash Rabbah?), the problem is not that Democrats are being overly concerned about political calculations but that political calculations indicate spinelessness is the best course of action rather than opposing the President. In the Madisonian system, political concerns are supposed to promote vigorous opposition -- "ambition must be made to counteract ambition" -- rather than spinelessness. The idea that political calculations are themselves the problem is inherently un-American.

And you see this not just in federal politics and the elite media. I have a friend who works as a security guard in South FL. She is something of a fabulist (as are many who suffer from mania), but even if only half of what she tells me is true, these "security" companies are managed by bullies who are wont to violate so many workplace health and safety rules and workers' rights that all these "security" companies should be shut down immediately.

Now you'd think some publicity seeking politician would decide to make a name for himself by launching an investigation. Or some enterprising journalist would decide to make headlines by investigating. But this just ain't happening. Why? Imagine what'd happen to that journalist or that politician: the journalist would be dismissed as being a moonbat biased reporter and the politician would end his career as everyone would accuse him of playing politics and attacking business for political gain. Today, Ida Tarbell could not get her famous articles printed except in places dismissed by "serious" people as outlets for moonbats (c.f. also what happened to Dan Rather and his associates), and Harry Truman would have been tarred and feathered and necklaced as un-patriotic for daring to criticize military contracts in a time of war.

Ambition is not counteracting ambition because ambition dictates you just play along with the powers-that-be. The system is failing in a way such that our energy crisis can be solved by hooking a turbine up to Madison's bones: he must be spinning in his grave so vigorously.

Why is this happening? Some blame the 1960s. Some blame Watergate. They say we've become too cynical. But there wasn't a time of innocence in the past. We always were cynical. Ida Tarbell and her kind were denigrated as Muckrakers, even by their fellow Progressives! Back in the day, people didn't engage in the Trumanolatry they did now: certainly many people very well thought ... "oh that Harry Truman, he's just a hack politician trying to make a name for himself".

The difference is not the motives people ascribed to the ambitious, but rather that today we condemn ambition to a degree never condemned in this country in the past. I don't blame Watergate for this, but I do blame Nixon -- for the "Southern Strategy". There was one part of the country in which ambition was always dismissed: the neo-manoralist (I hesitate to say "feudalist" because feudalism implies a system of reciprocal obligations which the Southern gentry always dismissed as infringements upon their "liberty") South, where an ambitious person of the lower orders, unless he served as a perfect retainer for the upper-classes, would be dismissed as "uppity".

The Southern Strategy, itself a product of Nixon's ambition as well as desire to destroy those Patrician Northeasterns with whom Nixon agreed ideologically far more than with the hard right but who despised Nixon so he despised them back, mainstreamed and nationalized what had been regional failing in its body politic. Together with the integration of pre-millenialists -- both literal pre-millenialists, largely themselves from the South as well as the de facto pre-millenialism of the former leftists and their descendents who make up the neo-conservative movement and who, like both Leninists and traditional pre-millenialists, figure any Progressive (rather than radical) change to be futile -- into politics, which they philosophically view as a futile and vain activity, the result has been a transformation in our understanding of the value of ambition counteracting ambition: where before we may have been cynical about politicians' motives but known that the system was designed with such motives in mind, now we dismiss any political gamesmanship to the point where the truly ambitious become, rather than publicity-seeking troublemakers as Madison intended, yes-men and retainers for the powers-that-be.

It should be noted that the South, in which ambition that checked ambition was not rewarded but punished, remained backward until the Reconstruction (really the first Construction of the South, which had not at that point developed at all) frustrated post-civil-war was finished by the New Deal, Fair Deal and Great Society. Now the current political trend is to undermine the very programs that developed the region from which this political trend has largely come. Not just our political, but also our economic and social health, depends on the checks and balances famously described in Federalist #51. Today we are too comfortable with greed, aristocratic privilege but not at all with ambition and meritocrats. For the sake of our nation, we must reverse with what we are comfortable and with what we are discomforted. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition once again!

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