Balkinization  

Monday, May 23, 2016

Is Sanders stupid or simply a coward?

Sandy Levinson

As readers of my previous posts are well aware, I am extremely critical of Senator Sanders for his abject refusal even to suggest that anyone defining him/herself as a "political revolutionary" might do what, say, Hamilton Madiaon, and Jay did when they denounced the existing constitutional order (of the Articles of Confederation) as "imbecilic" and suggested its replacement by something they saw as far better.  His notion of a "political revolution" is remarkably undeveloped, to put it mildly.

His unwillingness to engage in any such analysis is especially noticeable given his ever increasing propensity to whine about the particular rules of the Democratic Party--to which his own loyalty is minimal, incidentally--and the ostensible ways they have hindered his candidacy.  As Mark Graber notes in his own excellent post, Sen. Sanders seems to believe that non-Democrats should play a key role in selecting the nominee of the party.  There is something to be said for "open primaries," but there is also surely something to be said against them.  There is a genuine debate to be had about the extent to which parties should be viewed as membership organizations entitled to make their own choices as to whom they wish to represent them as candidates, subject to limitations on, say, racial discrimination.  But Mark is surely correct that there would be something odd if non-Catholics demanded a right to participate in electing the next Pope, and so on.  But, obviously, Sanders is not leading a genuinely serious debate, which might require at least a modicum of disinterestedness.

Sanders, alas, has revealed himself as incapable of leading a serious discussion about truly necessary structural reform in this country.  I genuinely regret this, as I have admired (and contributed to) Senator Sanders and believed that his candidacy was in fact very good for the country.

Even if Sen. Sanders is from Brooklyn, he is behaving exactly like the Vermont Senator he is, inasmuch as he seems almost totally oblivious to the actual number of voters supporting Secretary Clinton as against himself and prefers to treat all states as equal, so that we are asked to treat his triumph in Wyoming as the equal of her win in Ohio.  Only someone unconcerned by the indefensible allocation of voting power in the Senate could possibly believe any such thing.

To answer my own question, I do not believe that the University of Chicago-educated Senator is stupid.  Perhaps, though, it's too easy to denounce him simply as a coward.  Maybe he remains enough of a classic Marxist so that he views political institutions as merely epiphenomenal relative to what's really important, which is class struggle.  But he seems to believe that rules and institutions matter with regard to the Democratic Party.  If that's the case, then why can't he accept the fact that the same is even more true at the national level?

If he in fact refuses to get solidly behind Secretary Clinton and help her defeat the fascist and incompetent Donald Trump, then he should roast in hell.  But, frankly, I will be only somewhat mollified if he does the right thing re Clinton and Trump, given that he still will have blown the opportunity of a lifetime to initiate a long-overdue discussion of the degree to which our present constitutional order, as designed in 1787, is indeed imbecilic and very much in need of examination and change.

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Ok, reality check: Regardless of your personal opinion of the Constitution, it is in fact popular. Very popular. Much more popular than actual politicians, or the government that claims to run under it.

Thus, regardless of your opinion of the Constitution, any politician who actually means to get elected must, regardless of their own opinion, too, not attack the Constitution.

Sanders might be a classic Marxist. He might be a Fabian Socialist. But he's also a successful politician, and he's not going to deliberately commit political suicide to win the admiration of Constitution hating professors. Not enough votes there.

Second, Hamilton found himself in very, very different circumstances than we today occupy. The Articles of Confederation were only a few years old, so nobody was really very attached to them. That they weren't working wasn't a fringe opinion. And the US was a small fish surrounded by big fish, muddling through wasn't an option. So it didn't require as much courage as you imagine to make a break from the Articles. That convention didn't happen because everybody thought things were peachy.

Third, this site's anti-robot mechanism is totally not working.


 

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I agree with what Brett's written here. The Constitution is popular, Sanders would be committing political suicide to run against it (although, as Sandy has noted, there are successful politicians on the right, for example Abbott, who call for the Constitution to be overhauled).
 

But the people calling for it to be overhauled are not advocating this as opposition to the existing Constitution, but instead as a way of repairing damage due to judicial misconstrual.
 

But that's what lots of people think about their proposed overhauling (those on the left who want to amend the First Amendment think it's necessary to repair the damage done by the decision in Citizen's United, for example).
 

Sandy:

Have you seen any evidence over the past several years that any of the Democrat leadership takes the Constitution's checks, balances and divisions of power seriously? Because they do not, why should they care about formal constitutional reform to officially eliminate them?
 

"But that's what lots of people think about their proposed overhauling (those on the left who want to amend the First Amendment think it's necessary to repair the damage done by the decision in Citizen's United, for example)."

Yeah, my point: Even people who don't like some part of the Constitution, 1st amendment protection of political speech, or 2nd amendment protection of gun ownership, are forced to pretend they're defending the Constitution against mistaken interpretations. Even as they attack it they have to make a show of liking it. It's just that popular, you don't dare be seen as opposed to it if you need popular support for your aims.

Hatred of our Constitution is a fringe position, and it seems unreasonable to attack Sanders for not cutting his own throat politically.

Bart is, of course right, with his point. Why would Sanders want to change a constitution he doesn't intend to obey in any case?
 

Hasn't Sanders proposed an Amendment to address Citizen's United? That seems like an odd move for someone who 'doesn't intend to obey the Constitution in any case,' in fact it even seems to demonstrate a respect for stare decisis and out constitutional caselaw.
 

There's no particular conflict between talking about changing the Constitution, and not planning on obeying it anyway.

As we've been discussing, it's politically necessary to make a show of respect for the Constitution, even if you plan on walking all over it.
 

So you've got a nice, non-falsifiable argument there...
 

Nah, I base the assumption that he'd walk all over the Constitution on evidence. And if he's elected and follows it, the argument would be falsified.

That's how predictions are falsified, you know: By not coming true.
 

The spam is starting right away now. Where's the environmentally friendly weed killer?

With respect, find SL's tone a bit over the top. I don't like when either side does this and the opening titles of the last two posts seem more tabloid fodder than anything else. Realize at this point you are getting tired and depressed at the state of things, but just my .02 here.

Sanders believes, correctly in my mind, that to change the country you need to change the political system and build off popular movement from below. You are not going to get "structural change" until the people rally and demand it. Constitutional change factors in here some, but he has done a pretty good job doing what he is doing.

And, as a product of the popular movements of the 60s and a guy in his 70s, the fact he is follow an old technique and not thinking about changing the Constitution is not surprising. His efforts also are type to encourage young and not so young people to push for change, some who can do so by constitutional means. Did populists in the late 19th and early 20th Century who merely push for legislative etc. change not help constitutional changes too?

Also, yes, it is fairly popular though as Mr. W. notes, he is supportive of an amendment to address campaign finance (though as many have explained, working off the current Constitution can address the same ends, including by examining history, republican values etc.).


 

The "just click to assert that you're not a robot" filter was never very secure, it only lasted until somebody wrote a script to circumvent it. The image filter is a bit more secure, but probably vulnerable to attack, too, based on compiling a searchable list of images using 3rd world labor.

Yeah, I think Sandy needs to explore getting a prescription for a good tranquilizer, or maybe just a nice wine.
 

"And if he's elected and follows it, the argument would be falsified."

No, you'd just insist that when he 'follows it' (in your subjective opinion) he was only doing so because of the political necessity of doing so.
 

I wouldn't much care why he was following it, and the prediction was about his actions, not his motives.
 

Is the Tom Perez graduation speech referenced in Mark Graber's post online?
 

Sandy Levinson's unusual argument for objecting to Bernie Sanders reminds me for some reason of J.R.R. Tolkien's opposition to Hitler in the 1930s. As a conservative Catholic he might well have done so. But as a genuine expert - the expert - on Norse mythology, he knew for a fact that the Nazis were lying about its messages. So he was open to the evidence that they were lying about other things as well.
 

The irony: Bernie has been a democrat (since 2015) less time than Ben Carson has been a republican (October 31, 2014). To also claim to be an outsider when his steadiest job for 30 years has been in government is breathtaking. Hillary raised $10K for his initial senate bid, he appears a wee bit ungrateful and duplicitous: http://bluenationreview.com/bernie-received-10000-from-hillarys-pac-to-win-senate-seat/.
 

"Mr. Carson said he grew up a Democrat but switched his party affiliation to Republican in the 1980s after listening to Ronald Reagan."

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/nov/4/ben-carson-officially-switches-parties-returns-gop/

Not a big fan of the source but I'll take it on face value.

Sanders has long been a part of the Democratic coalition in Congress even if he was not a registered Democrat. That does affect his connection to the party but Sanders was more tied to one party in that sense than Carson, who was not a long time working ally of one party.

Sanders is an insider in government but has still been a loner there. Also, don't think it "ungrateful" and especially not "duplicitous" to run against someone who some time in the past donated money to your campaign. Politics is about shifting alliances in many ways.
 

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Sanders has long been a part of the Democratic coalition in Congress even if he was not a registered Democrat. That does affect his connection to the party but Sanders was more tied to one party in that sense than Carson, who was not a long time working ally of one party. Jaipur Escort
 

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