America's Third Century

Wretchard makes one of those historical analogies that Eric Blair hates, this time to the Third Century Crisis in Rome. Analogies always break, of course, as the only way an analogy would not break is if the two things being compared turn out to be the same thing and not different things. Otherwise, there are always differences that create a breaking point for the comparison.

Setting aside the usefulness of the comparison for discussion in the comments, Wretchard is not wrong that this is a moment in which Constitutional norms seem to have weakened. The "deep state" to which Bill Kristol pledges a kind of conditional loyalty has no Constitutional warrant for its existence.

While this 'deep state' fights with the Constitutional state, at a moment of the Constitutional state's supreme weakness, there is a third power -- for Wretchard, an analog to the barbarians.
If Trump is overthrown by the Deep State in a year, he's unlikely to be the last. If neither faction will suffer itself to be governed by the other, whoever succeeds Trump can expect his term to be short. America could have its own period of the 26 presidents. That will be good news for the Barbarians, waiting at the edge of Baltics, in the South China Sea and on Europe's borders, ready to move in.

Rome's Third Century crisis did not end well. The new normal was not a return to the Golden Age, but the end of it. It resulted in a landscape with a broken internal trade network and a patchwork of locality.
I think I'm going to have to go against Kristol on this one, and try to reinforce the Constitutional state. That's not the same thing as declaring loyalty to the Trump administration, but rather, to the explicitly Constitutional forms. The American solution is not unelected bureaucrats with powers the Founders never imagined but Congress, the courts in their proper role, and the officials that We the People can actually choose either directly or indirectly. If those options are inadequate, then the right thing to do is to call that Article V convention, and start planning a new Constitutional state (or states).

10 comments:

raven said...

It does not matter what is done or not done. We are no longer one people, arguing about the best path toward a commonly desired outcome. We are now in contest about two diametrically opposed outcomes.
If anyone can show me a place where this did not end up in either war,or tyranny, I should appreciate the morale boost.

E Hines said...

Krystol's diatribe and allegiance to the deep state is just an extension of his TDS hysteria, nothing more and nothing less.

A constitutional convention can only have decent effect with a complete removal of all of those in current government employ or election, down to and including the lowliest janitor and the backest bencher. These are the ones who are actively ignoring, circumventing, and violating the present Constitution; amending it or writing a new one with these folks in place will only give them a new document to ignore, circumvent, and violate. And yes, that means many who are innocent of this will have to go, too; the government has grown too large and too heavily populated for half measures to be useful. (This is also a part of why I argue, on eliminating these or those Departments and Agencies, that all of those personnel should be returned to the private sector rather than reassigned elsewhere in the government.)

I also tend to lean against such a convention for my usual reason: we got very lucky with our 18th century convention, most such have been miserable failures. And, notwithstanding a couple of tweaks discussed elsewhere in the Hall, our current Constitution is a very fine document; it wants only men who will follow it.

Eric Hines

raven said...

A convention won't matter- one side or the other will dictate, the other half will be ignored and a nation cannot stand with half it's people at mortal odds with the other half.

They do not want, nor will they accept, what we want.

In a divorce, this is termed irreconcilable differences.

I am quite willing to let them live as they may.

But when they start demanding that we live as they dictate, and that we pay for the coercion thrust on us, willingness gets very thin.
This is the difference between legalizing homosexual marriage, and forcing people to support it in violation of their religious beliefs.

In the fantasy epics, there is always some sealed box or book of spells with chains and locks and warnings -"here be spirits, do not open"- well, those fools are running around with empty heads and bolt cutters.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

All analogies limp, but some limp more than others. http://volokh.com/posts/1166587868.shtml

If the Deep State is indeed that powerful, then even a victory over Trump could come at high cost. We imagine that a victor emerges unscathed, as a boxer who can train for another bout months in the future does. Not so. If Trump accomplishes no more than good SCOTUS picks, avoiding the worst of unnecessary wars and fighting nearly all the right ones, and wounding or sapping energy from the Deep State, that will be a remarkably good presidency, though none thank him for it.

Please note that I don't like Trump and think he is a buffoon, but the possibles noted above are within the reach of even buffoons, with a little luck and goodwill. And I grant he is more likely to accomplish them than many who would be considered "better" presidents.

Trump is hunting different game than the usual politician. He may turn out to be terrible at it. Yet it is game that has not been hunted for many a long year.

Tom said...

... our current Constitution is a very fine document; it wants only men who will follow it.

Where do you think we can find such men? And how do we get them in the right places?

raven, a divorce may be the best thing at this point.

Good points, AVI. That would be a successful presidency at this point.

E Hines said...

If we let California and New York go, we'll have mostly a country of such men. I'll even throw in my home state of Illinois (from the Dirksen days) to sweeten the deal.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

I think you have to have the Art. V convention to 'let California and New York go,' although I suppose you could pass the amendments through Congress if you can get them to do their jobs for a few minutes.

E Hines said...

Congress can't pass amendments; it only can propose them.

Also, if nobody objects to the two or three states' departures, there'd be the technical violation of the Constitution, but no practical one. That would come down to prosecutorial discretion and resource management. And to Scalia's considered principle that it's settled if the people have accepted it (though he never did say how he discriminated between actual acceptance and mere resignation out of, perhaps, a sense of helplessness and futility of objection).

Eric Hines

Tom said...

Well, if Congress proposes the amendment(s), then you don't have to have an Article V convention. The states just get to voting.

Also, fair point about letting CA and NY go. I think just letting one of them go would tip the balance enough. I'd certainly tell my representatives not to oppose secession.

Texan99 said...

My allegiance is to deep private institutions. A lot of what passes for government should be rolling off their backs. Entrenched government that's impervious to voter discipline? No.