America's constitution and fatalism

I find the arguments made here intriguing but the inherent, “there’s nothing we can do about it,” attitude unacceptable. Dahl’s arguments may be wrong (though I tend to think they may at least lead in the right direction), but the inherent dissatifaction with the political process isn’t. … crbo_books

From the text:

“My reflections lead me to a measured pessimism about the prospects for greater democratization of the American Constitution,” Dahl writes. He sees little or no chance for the kinds of changes to which his analysis logically points. He does see some unspecified hope in “a gradually expanding discussion that begins in scholarly circles, moves outward to the media and intellectuals more generally, and after some years begins to engage a wider public”—specifically, a discussion of how our system stacks up against the performance of constitutional systems in other advanced democracies and against democratic principles. Our understanding of those principles will evolve indefinitely. “So, too,” he writes in his final sentence, “will the implications of those principles for our democratic political system, and its Constitution, under which we Americans freely choose to live.”

Dahl can be forgiven this one little flourish of sentimentality. As he knows very well—and has written a book to prove—our system is a lot less democratic than it should be. We didn’t choose it; it was here when we arrived. We just have to live with it. Better we should do so with our eyes open. "

Given time, I’ll try to post a more philosophically reflective article on this problem, the problem of apathy.

"Seize the day: Lenin’s legacy

In 1917, fighting against the tide of Bolshevik opinion, Lenin claimed that there is no ‘proper time’ for revolution, simply emerging opportunities which must be seized. In the latest exclusive essay from the London Review of Books, Slavoj Zizek argues that the left today needs Lenin’s lessons more than ever."

This is from this: … 03,00.html

Okay, the argument is a little more nuanced but read both articles and tell me what you think.

I’m not sure what you want, so I will give you some random thoughts on the Federal Government that the US Constitution created and then hobgoblinized.

The North wanted a Federal Government. The South did not. The South knew that a Federal Government (that is, a government it could not control) sooner or later would turn a critical eye on the “peculiar institution” of slavery.

So the Founding Fathers compromised. To get the support of the South for the new Constitution and the Federal Government it created, they decided that a slave would count as three-fifths of a vote in apportioning representation in the House. That gave the South more power in that body than the number of its voters warranted.

Next, the Founding Fathers created a Senate whose makeup gave the rural, agricultural and sparsely-populated South even more disproportionate representation.

Then they decided that the President would not be elected by popular vote. They created an Electoral College (whose members would correspond in number to the number of Representatives and Senators in each state) to choose the President.

Bush is sitting in the White House because of a Constitutional antiquity designed to protect slavery in the South.

Finally, the Founding Fathers adopted a “Bill of Rights,” the capstone of which is the Tenth Amendment.

The idea that “government is a necessary evil” is: (A) a Southern sop; and (B) the reason the US is the only “First World” society that does not have national health care.

The problem with “government is a necessary evil” is that, as Aristotle pointed out, there are no good and bad systems. There are only good and bad people. Good people make systems good, and bad people make systems bad.

Finally: (A) some of this may be true; and (B) your second link isn’t working.

If they wanted to protect Southern Slavery, why did the emancipation proclamation only illegalise slavery in the confederacy?

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863. It had nothing to do with the adoption of the Constitution, except to show that the South was right in suspecting the consequences of a Federal Government.

Ah i apologise. I did kno wthat, i just misunderstood the post… My Bad

Not even the start of a problem, HVD. Your point about the hypocrisy of the Emancipation Proclamation is well-taken. :smiley:

You know i’ts incredible. Everyone (or at least consensus reality) calls Lincoln “The Great Emancipator” But in reality he was almost as much a racist bastardo as most of the Confederate leaders. He did not want Emancipation for the Union, or even Confederate territory captured by the Union. He did not support blacks being given the franchise, he did not support interracial mixing or desegregation. To be honest I think he was out to secure his investment and that of his generals. But as always, that’s just my opinion

PS, yes, i did mean bastardo. It’s like a bastard, but more so. And Spanish

I see your point.

Lincoln was a complex man who presided over the most chaotic episode in American history. Definitive statements about him should be made with extreme caution.

In any case, the myth of Lincoln is truer than the reality. Compared to what we think of him, the historic Lincoln is almost irrelevant.

The man is an appendage of the myth.

Very true. And the same is true about the vast majority of historical figures. Next MLK Day, watch the specials on his life, Notice how they miss out the entire last couple of years of his life? There’s a reason for that. It seems he is a hero whenever his message cooincides with that of the establishment. When he started saying the really radical stuff, they don’t want to know. Fuck consensus reality.

Sorry about that second link, I’ve tried it two different ways and can’t get it to work. It does work however if you just cut and paste. :laughing:

Here’s where I see a connection:

There’s a lot more in that essay, but I found the two contrasting points striking. On the one hand, an author has ideas for change but doesn’t feel that the time is ‘right’ for change. On the other, we have a comparison of 1917 with today and a push, an exhortation to change things for no other reason than it is now. That is, to make it happen for the time will never be ‘right’. I don’t think there’s anything naive, we all know the dangers involved (look at the twentieth century), but it seems the opposite mode is self-fulfilling, certain extinction.

The Lincoln and King comparison is interesting. Does complexity in a person, does a certain opportunism in people, necessarily tarnish their role as heroes or does it make them more heroic because they are indeed human? With King, for example, I don’t mean the radical politics (I agree with you there), I mean his adultery. With Lincoln, does it really tarnish his image that he was willing to compromise but still maintain a belief that slavery was morally wrong?


You seem to agree with much of the first essay. I think it’s time to consider different options but we can’t have options if we maintain this sacred relic view of the constitution. I do think that part of the current fatalism we see today is precisely that we’ve forgotten what the whole constitution thing was about.

But that’s the damndest thing, Brad. What most people dont realise is that Licoln was not morally opposed to slavery. If he was, he would have emancipated all slaves, not merely those belonging to his enemies. Hell, most of his top generals owned slaves for years after reunification! But because he freed some, but not all, slaves, he is “The great emancipator” even though his racial views were not any different to your average Confederate racist.

As I said before, If that is consensus reality, I really dont want any part of it.

But you’re not looking closer at why Lincoln didn’t free all slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation, HVD. Lincoln only freed those slaves in the Confederacy to publicly show that he intended to free all slaves after the war. At the same time, Lincoln had to appease the border states of the Civil War (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia; all were slave states) by allowing them to keep slavery for a few years longer. Had those states gone to the Confederacy, the South would have had a larger population base for troops and a more industrial output (not to mention the fact Washington DC is surrounded by Maryland…it would be gard to fight a war from a besieged capital). He did so to give the North an advantage over the South in the war. And true Lincoln didn’t out right disapprove of slavery, he didn’t condone it, either. In fact, the Civil War didn’t start about slavery. It started in order to keep the nation together. The issue of slavery entered the fray when Lincoln saw the time was right to ablish the system.

If only my AP teacher this year could read that…he’d be proud.

You are right, Brad.

Canada gets along just fine without a constitution. There are successful European and Asian nations that don’t know what a constitution is and wouldn’t be grateful if we told them.

The US Constitution does not enshrine “eternal political truths.” There aren’t any. From the get-go, it was a bargain with the devil. It saddled future generations of Americans with the political expediencies of 1787.

Jefferson said, “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical… It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.”

He would know.