On Vampires, Zombies, and Supreme Court Justices

After noting a substantial decline in public esteem for the Supreme Court, as measured in opinion polls, Burt Likko wonders what it means:

The canary looks a little woozy to me. It’s certainly not dead yet and there is no reason for despair, but something isn’t as it ought to be. Aren’t we, as a culture and as a people, losing something precious when our attitudes towards the bench shift so much in the span of a single generation?

“No reason to despair”? If he says so, but here’s an intermediate draft of unreasonable despair: It wasn’t just Bush v Gore, and it wasn’t just the narrowly political nature of Bush v Gore, and it wasn’t even the contradiction between the supposed strict constitutionalism of conservative judges and their deemed necessary resort to a less than strict, arguably extra-constitutional interventionism. Originalism becomes self-undermining, since in the end it’s the purest form of legal positivism, and tends to produce absolute confrontations between need and practice, natural justice and formal justice, exigency and ideal. Bush v Gore was pure exigency and defined as such – in other words the self-falsification of the rule of law. It completed the comprehensive exposure of the arbitrariness and insufficiency of the constitutional system, as the Court called upon and irrevocably spent 200 years of traditional deference. The conduct of the Court furnished just one element in the vast self-satire that that election produced, but it’s a crucial one, since the decision of the court is one of the main ways that the god of the American secular religion, the mysterious Popular Sovereign, speaks. When we no longer hear Her, or believe we do, the system is rubbish, hardly fit for recycling. The Conflict Formerly Known as the War on Terror and the rest of the ’00s up to this very day continued a descent into post-constitutional governance, which the fetishists of the Constitution are implacably determined to hasten. West Wing becomes Veep. Obamessiah turns into the psychopathic janitor-in-chief. A figure like Mitt Romney – open fraud, an ambulatory non sequitur whose nonsensical emptiness is his main redeeming quality – becomes theoretically electable as Head of State and Government. The words “citizens united” come to mean “citizenship annihilated,” we wait for the economy to vote for or against itself to no known purpose, and at every crisis the mask slips away further, revealing nothing at all in the foreground, beyond it a coven of vampires (“them”) amidst a mass of zombies (“us”). To continue functioning at all, the system will have to finish discarding itself, likely to the applause of those few who even notice.

Home Page  Public Email  Twitter  Facebook  YouTube  Github   

Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution. 

One comment on “On Vampires, Zombies, and Supreme Court Justices

Commenting at CK MacLeod's

We are determined to encourage thoughtful discussion, so please be respectful to others. We also provide a set of Commenting Options - comment/commenter highlighting and ignoring, and commenter archives that you can access by clicking the commenter options button (). Go to our Commenting Guidelines page for more details, including how to report offensive and spam commenting.

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "On Vampires, Zombies, and Supreme Court Justices"
  1. […] comrade Kolohe disagrees that Mitt is anything special: “Romney is not really a harbinger of doom (or DOOOOOM!!!), as the Nation has certainly […]

  2. […] under “Contempt Of Court”, Vampires et al, and the Iron Laws of Historical Irony, […]

Commenter Ignore Button by CK's Plug-Ins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

Comment →

Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

Comment →

[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

Comment →
CK's WP Plugins


Extraordinary Comments

CK's WP Plugins