Tuesday, November 30, 2010

They Hate Us For Our Freedoms

Is this how American constitutional republicanism dies?
For several weeks now, conservative legal circles have been buzzing with Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell's plan to amend the Constitution so that a 2/3 vote of the states could overturn overturn any federal law passed by the Congress and signed by the President.(link 1)

Conservatives are planning to propose an amendment to the Constitution at some time in the next few weeks aimed at allowing states to repeal legislation without the approval of Washington.


The Repeal Amendment calls for allowing states to band together to repeal, or overturn, federal legislation. As it is written now, if approved and ratified, two-thirds of states’ legislatures would need to vote in favor of a repeal.(link 2)
While altering the Constitution is certainly legitimate, I have to wonder why this measure - basically reinstating the Articles of Confederation - is seen by anyone as attractive.

Of course, I know the answer.

Conservatives know that, even though they skimmed slim majority of the popular vote in the previous election, voter turnout was low, and had the economy been in even moderately better condition, no one would have paid attention to them. Their moment in the sun is waning. Even though they are patting themselves on the back for winning back a majority in the House of Representatives, the divided Congress is a recipe for getting nothing of substance done.

Proposing this Amendment now does two things. First, it distracts attention from the reality that, for the most part, the conservative agenda is really, really unpopular. Second, it distracts attention from the reality that the Republicans will do nothing either to bring down the deficit (which they promised to do) or imrpove the employment situation (about which they care even less than the deficit). It allows blow-hards and demagogues to carry on about socialism and an omnipresent federal government without achieving anything of substance.

Yet, I worry. The virus of national disintegration that infected part of Europe after the collapse of Soviet control spread west. Britain allows Scotland to have a separate Parliament (even while sitting members in Whitehall). Wales has some limited autonomy as well. Belgium is flirting with dissolution between French Flanders and the Dutch Walloon. Canada has barely escaped federal dissolution a couple times over the past decades. Are we next? Is it possible that Lincoln's experiment in liberty is just too difficult to sustain across a continental landmass and beyond, with different ethnic groups and religious beliefs and languages and histories?

Virtual Tin Cup

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