At heart, the right in the United States - which is indistinguishable, for any practical purpose, from the beating heart of the Republican Party (the problems with the Democratic Party are a topic for another day) - is anti-American. Not in the old-fashioned way some on the right claim liberals hate this country because we criticize this or that policy or action. No, the right hates America because they detest the Constitution. They invoke it all the time. When they do, they show a remarkable lack of understanding of the text of the document, its provenance in the brain of James Madison and the arguments for and against it (they're available in paperback; I have two different print editions; one contains the Federalist Papers, the other the anti-Federalist papers), and how it's been interpreted over the centuries by the courts.
The first time I really noticed this, was nearly five years ago. Thomas Sowell, of the Hoover Institute, a favorite among the right because he has a Ph. D. and no other academics pay attention to him. That he's African-American is like a trifecta, heaping the cries of victimhood and liberal racism upon the naked bones of his empty scholarship. Sowell is also a part-time pundit (he may have stopped; I certainly never paid enough attention to notice whether he still writes political commentary), and back in the dim days of 2007, in the midst of a piece, he mused on the potential benefits of a military coup.
That same day, according to the Wayback Machine, Glenn Greenwald wrote an article in Salon taking on Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield and a piece he wrote for The Wall Street Journal (the article sits behind WSJ's paywall now, sad to say) entitled, "The Case for the Strong Executive". From Greenwald:
Unlike dishonest Bush followers who ludicrously claimed that Bush’s eavesdropping was not illegal, Mansfield embraced reality and candidly argued that President Bush possesses the power to break the law in order to fight The Terrorists. The headline of that article presented the same mutually exclusive choice as the WSJ article today: The Law and the President — in a national emergency, who you gonna call?Around this same time - 2007 was the dawning realization among many on the right that most Americans wanted the Bush Presidency over, his pack of goons and flunkies gone to the Elysian Fields of corporate lobbyhood, and someone - anyone - in the White House - there was yet another explicit call for an American dictatorship.
In that article, Mansfied claimed, among other things, that our “enemies, being extra-legal, need to be faced with extra-legal force“; that the “Office of President” is “larger than the law”; that “the rule of law is not enough to run a government”; that “ordinary power needs to be supplemented or corrected by the extraordinary power of a prince, using wise discretion”; that “with one person in charge we can have both secrecy and responsibility”
Yet in 2007 he is generally despised, with many citizens of Western civilization expressing contempt for his person and his policies, sentiments which now abound on the Internet. This rage at President Bush is an inevitable result of the system of government demanded by the people, which is Democracy.I realize that five years is forever to most people; internet time is like dog years times infinity. Last week becomes ancient history, despite the marvelous way the internet archives everything. In his indefatigable quest to expose the stone heart and lumpy brain stem of American conservatism, Charlie Pierce calls attention to the NRO's gang of attack squirrels taking on the big, bad New York Times.
The inadequacy of Democracy, rule by the majority, is undeniable -- for it demands adopting ideas because they are popular, rather than because they are wise. This means that any man chosen to act as an agent of the people is placed in an invidious position: if he commits folly because it is popular, then he will be held responsible for the inevitable result. If he refuses to commit folly, then he will be detested by most citizens because he is frustrating their demands.
When faced with the possible threat that the Iraqis might be amassing terrible weapons that could be used to slay millions of citizens of Western Civilization, President Bush took the only action prudence demanded and the electorate allowed: he conquered Iraq with an army.
This dangerous and expensive act did destroy the Iraqi regime, but left an American army without any clear purpose in a hostile country and subject to attack. If the Army merely returns to its home, then the threat it ended would simply return.
The wisest course would have been for President Bush to use his nuclear weapons to slaughter Iraqis until they complied with his demands, or until they were all dead. Then there would be little risk or expense and no American army would be left exposed. But if he did this, his cowardly electorate would have instantly ended his term of office, if not his freedom or his life.
The simple truth that modern weapons now mean a nation must practice genocide or commit suicide. Israel provides the perfect example. If the Israelis do not raze Iran, the Iranians will fulfill their boast and wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Yet Israel is not popular, and so is denied permission to defend itself. In the same vein, President Bush cannot do what is necessary for the survival of Americans. He cannot use the nation's powerful weapons. All he can do is try and discover a result that will be popular with Americans.
As there appears to be no sensible result of the invasion of Iraq that will be popular with his countrymen other than retreat, President Bush is reviled; he has become another victim of Democracy.
By elevating popular fancy over truth, Democracy is clearly an enemy of not just truth, but duty and justice, which makes it the worst form of government. President Bush must overcome not just the situation in Iraq, but democratic government.
When folks on the right insist that our Republican institutions and the rule of law hinder a Republican President, they should be cast aside. When a journalist writes an article about a study on the declining influence of the Constitution of the United States among countries struggling to create stable civil institutions, this is yet more evidence of the perfidy of the American left.
Americans of all stripes tend to voice frustration with various parts of the document that shape our institutions. At other times, folks across the political spectrum voice support for this or that Constitutional provision, and in the process demonstrate a marvelous lack of any understanding. The whining and complaining and occasional out-right paranoid fantasizing about our current President - always couched in terms of concern for the Constitution - belie an underlying disgust most on the right hold for it. Like conservative Christians who know little to nothing about the faith, yet feel free to determine, on their own, who is and is not a Christian, these folks demonstrate contempt for our institutions, our civic life, our national rituals and culture, all the while reserving for themselves the privilege of determining who is and is not a proper American.
Its astounding, really.