The purpose of this unusually long post is to review and expand upon a discussion under a set of posts by Tim Kowal and Burt Likko, who are practicing attorneys with interest in Constitutional Law, on doctrines of Constitutional interpretation. The perhaps still distant objective is a framework for a “synthetic originalism” or “vital originalism” or “living originalism,” or a Unified Theory or at least Adequate Description of American Constitutionalism…
Though Robin sometimes seems to intend to incriminate Hayek and others by association, as with the likes of Pinochet, perhaps as a way to emphasize his continued membership in good standing on the political Left, there is nothing in the core of his argument, as opposed to its trivial polemical decorations, that a Hayekian ought to find embarrassing. To the contrary, Robin attributes “profundity and daring” to Hayek and his marginal siblings. Thought through, Robin’s arguments may present at least as many difficulties to a leftist, including one operating from Robin’s own presumptions, as to a conservative or to a libertarian.
Libertarianism is infant liberal-democracy, the arrested development of the polity fixated at the level of the pre-socialized or socialization-resistant individual – the pre-dialogical, self-sufficient, natural “I-atheist.”
What Slaughter wants to say but cannot quite say is that, whether or not Western civilization and its deeply embedded egalitarian ideal might have survived a Mongol victory at Vienna in 1241, or perhaps have arisen in quasi-reptilian form among evolved dinosaurs in the absence of the Yucatán asteroid, the 4th of July can be thought to commemorate a true inflection point in human history as a meaningful history. The American Founding as symbolized by whichever of its most important days may or may not qualify as history’s single most course-altering event, but it still invites comparison, without any hint of vulgar “exceptionalism,” to a small handful of other singular moments – as in the Hegelian world-historical concept, but with point of origin transferred to the New World from the Old: perhaps not as the biggest day in the natural history of one damn thing after another from Big Bang to Heat Death, but as a or the day after which history itself, as human history, must be thought of as truly changed.
A political identity and a position on political identity may in the final analysis be indistinguishable from each other, and I cannot legitimize my own concept of legitimacy or of political identity without referring to the same to be legitimized, identity-creating or -affirming or -confirming concepts.
The overall dysfunctionality of a political discussion can be the product of countless such lesser dysfunctionalities, though the overall dysfunctionality of that discourse may in turn be what makes it manageable, or manageable enough. We dislike things the way they dysfunctionally are, and that is how we like things.
In an “objective” if not necessarily “morally clear” accounting, the thousands killed and thousands more disfigured and terrified would receive many thousands of times greater concern. The child dismembered by a bomb blast, the soldier buried alive in a bunker, the prisoner merely sent off to some conventional Hell, and on and on, precisely as they become multiplied by thousands or millions and turned into numbers, all seem to command less outrage and concern than the captive in manacles.
The Drones as symbol refer us to a tyrannical, imperial, not merely mechanical but super-biological or super-organic, invulnerable, temporally and geographically unbounded, and most of all cruelly lethal power that has already annihilated the human being ideally before it sends its “Hellfire” missile at him to finish the job, while also morally annihilating the distant human pilots and their masters, the latter group eventually including all of us who benefit or who possess a moral share in the program as citizens of a democratic republic.
The eternal crosses infinitely all the way over to us on the finite cross. Even against the definitional and lethal disagreements within and between the Abrahamic faiths on instantiations of eternity, or finitizations of infinity, or mortalities of the immortal, the structure of the central question, as a dichotomy to be resolved into a unity, from incarnation to crucifixion to resurrection, survives all answering exclusions. We can even begin with the atheistic or heretical counter-narratives that insist that indispensable parts of the greatest story were merely story, that the humanly fallible texts amount to a pre-capitalist commodification for “franchising” purposes. Even the falsehood of the tale would precisely on its own level magnify it, as the greatest lie ever believed, in this the only world the closest a disenchanted perspective can approach to miracle.
Soon, in whatever state or state of states or unstate we are found, today's neo-isolationists of left and right may find themselves exposed to ironies mirroring those now felt by the neo-conservatives of just the other day, who thought they were advancing a needed heightening, deepening, and expansion of engagement, but instead reinforced an older impulse to wash one's hands of it all.
"The Triumph of Death," Pieter Bruegel, The Elder
To treat the past as nothing because it is or seems inaccessible to us is to imply the nothingness of every present destined to fall into it next - to make the substance of life the triumph of death... and therefore it is not thus.
With less and less semblance of temperamental conservatism, ever more self-destructively, nominally conservative Americans have sought in vain to immanentize as eschaton the non-immanentization of eschaton.
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.
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.
[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.