Sunday, November 05, 2006
Two Texts: An Election Eve Meditation
"It may be that despotizing moralists, in practice blundering, often violate rules of political prudence by taking or proposing decisions too quickly; but experience will gradually set them aright and lead them on to a better course. However, the moralizing politician, by glossing over principles of politics which are opposed to right with the pretext that human nature is not capable of the good as reason prescribes it, only makes reform impossible and perpetuates the violation of law.
Professor Horton: I fear for my country at this time. I fear for all of us and our world. Many of you may disagree with me. But I ask all to weigh this vote with care. This vote may be your last.
I'm usually on the other side of this conversation, trying to sound the alarm for what often seems the end of our valued and honorable way of life. But I try to moderate such thoughts.
If we stipulate that the PNAC powers that be are morally capable of consolidating power into a totaltarian system then it is too late anyway, because stipulating the will (and depravity) to betray the values of the nation, combined with the record of 2000 and 2004 elections, combined with the known Diebold partisanship, combined with the known Diebold security flaws, combined with the complicit media and an electorate so feckless as to be persuaded by statements such as Cheney's constant refrain that to vote Democrat is to vote for terror, well, all of that combined would mean we are too far gone.
We may be. There is an angle of analysis that says we have been too far gone for a long long time. But when we see the kinds of neo-con defection presented in the Vanity Fair article Professor Balkin linked to, when I think of the vast corporate interests which could not continue making profits as usual under a totalitarian regime, then I end up thinking that these are indeed dark and even evil times, but that we will weather them.
Perhaps the peasants on the slopes of Vesuvius had similar hopes as mine. I fear you are right in your assessment, but I tell myself it's premature. Peace.
ps: I can't recommend strongly enough looking into the killfile script for greasemonkey for firefox 2. I noticed on another thread that you are giving a couple of our best known trolls a very fair shot at interaction. At the risk of impertinence, it is the Liberal's greatest mistake, engaging ideological opponents who, rather than seeking legitimate dialectic in service of truth, are, in their own words, enaged in debate to persuade others to their world view. They're two very different criteria sets, with attendant differences in objectives and means, and to my eye the prime source of frustration and wasted effort by liberals is the time and energy wasted on the wrong people. With respect and gratitude, $.02.
While you Donkeys would like this to be a referendum, this election is really being turned back into a choice:
Which party has the better plan on the war with Islamic fascism, taxes and your local issues?
The Donkeys who have the best chances of picking up seats are nearly all running as conservative light.
The candidate which most nearly reflects the views of most here is Ned Lamont and he is getting his lunch handed to him in a Deep Blue State by a pro war Donkey.
That is because heavy majorities of the voters support the various exercises of Presidential power which you decry from the NSA spying program to the MSA.
Vote your conscience one way or another, but realize that you have a choice and that choice does not involve Mr. Bush, who ran his last race in 2004.
I have to partially disagree. There are a fair number of House candidates that are running strongly against the war - and are winning. (I'm not going to take the time to link to info about each one - but I think a few minutes of digging should confirm what I am saying.)
Also, from what I understand, Lieberman is only winning because all (most) of the Republicans are voting for him - I mean he did lose the pimary to Lamont. So, at best you can say is majority of the country does reject the Lamont, "net roots," Democrats, but a majority does also reject Bush.
In Appendix II to his Essay on Perpetual Peace Kant gives an even more rock-bottom measure of legitimacy, one that robs Bush's governance of even a figleaf of legitimacy. For Kant the rule could be "immediately recognised, as if by an experiment of the pure reason." He called it "the transcendental formula of Public Right," stated as follows:
"All actions relating to the rights of other men are wrong, if their maxim is not compatible with publicity."
He goes on to say:
"This principle is not to be regarded merely as ethical, and as belonging only to the doctrine of virtue, but it is also to be regarded as juridical and as pertaining to the rights of men. For a maxim cannot be a right maxim which is such that I cannot allow it to be published without thereby at the same time frustrating my own intention, which would necessarily have to be kept entirely secret in order that it might succeed, and which I could not publicly confess to be mine without inevitably arousing thereby the resistance of all men against my purpose. It is clear that this necessary and universal opposition of all against me on self-evident grounds, can arise from nothing else than the injustice which such a maxim threatens to everyone. Further, it is a merely negative maxim, in so far as it only serves as a means of making known what is not right and just towards others. It is like an axiom which is certain without demonstration."
One learns this maxim in law school as the principle of legality. It defines the very form of law. One needn't be a Kantian to grasp it.
How often has Bush flouted it? On how many levels has he failed to confess the regime he has inflicted on us? From how many watchful eyes has he cloaked his machinations? Here are only a few examples off the top. I'm sure any of you could add many more:
1. His warrantless wiretapping program, denied in words, then exposed over his objection.
2. His asserted right to privately determine how detainees will be tortured.
3. His denial of the right of detainees to speak to counsel.
4. His termination of the watchdog on war profiteering, in a provision whose inclusion in an appropriations bill no one can account for.
5. His Vice President's secret formulation of an energy policy.
6. His clampdown on whistleblowers at EPA.
7. His mislabeling of destructive legislation as ameliorative.
8. His executive enactment of rules that are then buried in definitions in the Federal Register where no one even knows to look for them.
9. His exclusion of Democrats from legislative conferences.
The forms of republican government are not just paper-thin. They have been stood on their head and banged again and again into the marbled floors of Washington. Matt Taibbi's "The Worst Congress Ever" (in the current Rolling Stone)shows the excuse for a legislative body that has collaborated in this deformation the likes of which this world has never seen before.
Now we head into an election not knowing which of us will be deemed worthy to vote after a purging of rolls whose dimensions are as yet a secret. Those of us who make the cut will have our votes counted on software whose code neither we are nor any other public agency is permitted to know.
Welcome to a nightmare neither Kant nor Kafka could have dreamed up. Welcome to post-legal America.
It's no longer a question whether this must end. The only question is whether it will.
Scott Horton: I fear for my country at this time. I fear for all of us and our world. Many of you may disagree with me. But I ask all to weigh this vote with care. This vote may be your last.
Robert Link :I'm usually on the other side of this conversation, trying to sound the alarm for what often seems the end of our valued and honorable way of life. But I try to moderate such thoughts.
Robert, I read Scott Horton as expressing certain fears -for the country. for all, for the world, without elaborating what he fears fall on them- and warning that this might be the last US election. These concerns, so stated, are very reasonable, in my opinion. He doesn’t make any predictions, one way or the other. That’s reasonable too, because there is no way to predict the things he appears to be worried about. Or if there is we haven’t figured it out yet. (In contrast, specific election outcomes can be predicted, with increasing accuracy.)
Your formula “If we stipulate that... etc., etc.” is interesting but it’s predictive utility hasn’t been verified, nor do we know how to verify it. Thus, with all respect, I cannot take comfort from your projection.
It seems to me that what will happen will be influenced by what has happened already, which is always the case. Obviously, we cannot change the past. We can influence developments by our actions, that is, by politics, which includes election campaigns, but is not limited to them.
For today and tomorrow, we want to deal GOP candidates as crushing a defeat as possible, by GOTV, as always, but also by assuring election integrity. The fact that this integrity battle is taking place at all diminishes the democratic legitimacy of our political system.
After that, we’ll see.
The outcome will be determined by our efforts, and of course those of our adversary. This is always so. What is new, and very bad, is that the character of our political system-whether the US is a constitutional democracy or some inferior form- is a contested issue in this election and for the foreseeable future. This is something I never anticipated.
O passi graviora, dabit deus his quoque finem. I am confident this will not be our last vote. Bush, bad though he is, will peacefully vacate the White House at the end of his term.
I hope that eventually we will be able to elect a Congress that, at least, understands and respects the principles of classical liberalism. But, if we are not, that's really our own fault.
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