Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Constitutional Convention

Let’s Just Start Over; Abolish the Constitution

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I went off on a bit of a tear this morning on Twitter and wanted to put it into a slightly more coherent form before I went about my day: my suggestion is that liberals, progressives, and liberal-leftists should look at the results of the last six years and conclude that there is simply no hope for significant reform within the existing constitutional order.

I’ve been saying this for years now, but here it is again: Obama swept into office at the head of a mass movement with a congressional supermajority during the worst crisis in 70 years, with the opposition party totally and absolutely discredited. That was the chance, the only chance, that the existing system had to reform, and he either blew it or betrayed it, however you come down on him. There’s no reason to think there will ever be another 2008 for the liberal-left. It’s over. The only hope now is a radical shift in the constitutional order, which can be achieved by calling for a new constitutional convention as prescribed within the existing constitution. It’s a legal move; it’s just never been tried.

Now, we know that the existing order is on course to destroy civilization within our lifetimes or the lifetimes of our children; we have to weigh any possible outcomes against that. But even bracketing climate change entirely, we have to understand that progressive and leftist economic policy can’t win within the existing order because it’s rigged for paralysis. A constitutional order with this level of malapportionment and this many chokepoints inevitably favors the political right. Even the best-case, most generous reading of Obama’s colossal failures demonstrates this to be true.

A new constitution would be a gamble, but it’s a gamble we take against a certainty of failure; recall that Clinton ’16, Clinton ’20, ClintonVP ’24 is the mainline Democrats’ most optimistic scenario, the one where they hit gold every time and never miss. And there’s good reason to think a new constitution literally couldn’t be worse than what we have now. A new constitution couldn’t get away with shortchanging CA and NY 14 senators, just for starters, much less any of the other crazy stuff that seems normal to us now; there’d be no way to justify it. Even a new constitutional convention that failed and saw the country break up into a loose confederation or into smaller states would be, on balance, an improvement for the world. With the experience of 2008-2014 — not to mention every other thing that’s happened in American politics on either the state or federal level for as long as I’ve been alive — it’s hard to see how a new system could possibly be worse for progressive hopes that the current system, which at this point we have to accept is guaranteed to always steamroll us.

A movement for a new constitution that took ten years to get off the ground would be catching fire at the end of Clinton’s second term, maybe; one that took fifteen years to get off the ground would hit just as whoever follows Clinton was taking office post-reelection. Do you honestly think politics in fifteen years will be better than it is now? Will the system be more just, more peaceful, more ecologically sustainable? Do you think we’ll be glad then that we stuck with the existing system, so Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo and Jay Nixon can save us?

In short my recommendation to the liberal-left and to progressives is to simply stop caring so much about whether Democrats win or lose and to devote themselves instead to advocating that we just start over, aligning with whatever savory and unsavory characters on the right we can get to sign on to the plan so that the convention happens and things at least have some chance to improve things before capitalism has fully and finally destroyed all hope for the future. At this point it’s not even really a gamble; there’s nothing left to lose, we’ve all already lost.

#teachthecontroversy #readyforHillary #despair #nihilism #breadsticks

Thursday Night Links

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* 2016! Bernie’s threatening to run. As always, you should take every drop of energy you’d put into a quixotic 3rd-party run for president and put it towards a new Constitution instead.

* Have Kids, Ruin Your Career, Ask Me How.

Why Frank Underwood hates children.

* Duke Energy Must Immediately Stop Polluting Groundwater In North Carolina, Judge Rules. The arc of history is long but oops everything is already polluted, bye.

* Huge Coal Company To Pay Largest-Ever Fine After 6,000 Clean Water Violations In 7 Years. In terms of the company’s valuation and the damage done the fine might as well have been $1.

* As Mary Sue Coleman, the university’s president, called for increased enrollment of students “paying the full freight,” enrollment from outside Michigan reached 46 percent last fall. The result is that the university not only reflects the race and class inequities inherent in our society, it actually reinforces and aggravates them.

* After three years in which private college and university administrators led their public counterparts in salary gains, the publics are on top in 2013-14. I can’t wait for next year!

* Let Them Eat Dignity.

Psychiatry, all along, knew that the evidence wasn’t really there to support the chemical imbalance notion, that it was a hypothesis that hadn’t panned out, and yet psychiatry failed to inform the public of that crucial fact.

* Do white men abuse their colleagues when they let their students call them by their first name?

* I Opted My Kids Out of Standardized Tests.

* And the headline reads: “Your porn is not Canadian enough, CRTC warns erotica channels.” I wrote a little one-act.

Sorry.

Tuesday Night Links

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* Community is back March 15, but NBC still hates you; they’re putting Parks & Rec on hiatus instead.

46 Things to Read and See for David Foster Wallace’s 50th Birthday. Via MeFi.

* Weirdest Unsolved Mysteries of World War II. I feel certain Indiana Jones was involved in each of these.

* “How New York Pay Phones Became Guerrilla Libraries.”

* A literary history of erasure.

* When Jon Hamm met Miss Piggy.

* Cory Doctorow reviews Lawrence Lessig’s Constitutional-conventionalist One Way Forward.

* ‘I exist wholly for you. I will never reject you. You cannot disappoint me.’ A brief history of the money shot.

* Canadians: They’re Just as Bad as Us!

* And of course you had me at 1811 Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue. Via Kottke.

FLOGGING CULLY. A debilitated lecher, commonly an old one.

COLD PIG. To give cold pig is a punishment inflicted on sluggards who lie too long in bed: it consists in pulling off all the bed clothes from them, and throwing cold water upon them.

TWIDDLE-DIDDLES. Testicles.

TWIDDLE POOP. An effeminate looking fellow.

Occupy Lessig

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Written by gerrycanavan

November 17, 2011 at 10:15 am

Hardt and Negri on Occupy Wall Street

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At CNN: If the forces of wealth and finance have come to dominate supposedly democratic constitutions, including the U.S. Constitution, is it not possible and even necessary today to propose and construct new constitutional figures that can open avenues to again take up the project of the pursuit of collective happiness? 

Written by gerrycanavan

October 11, 2011 at 11:13 pm

None of the Many Other Functioning Liberal Democratic Systems in the World Uses This System at Any Level, and That Includes All 50 States

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I would add that I completely reject the idea that the burden of proof rests on opponents of the electoral college. It’s not as if abandoning the electoral college would entail entering some terrifying void.  Direct popular voting is a system that works perfectly well in many different contexts.   When it comes to departures from majority rule in voting the burden of proof should rest squarely on the opponents.  None of the many other functioning liberal democratic systems in the world uses this system at any level, and that includes all 50 states. Nobody would consider using it. The key assumptions that it was based on — an opposition to political parties and a distrust of the excessive democracy inherent allowing the electorate to directly choose its representatives — were anti-democratic anachronisms in 1804, let alone 2011. All of this might be OK if the system was reliable, but not only did it fail in 2000, it was 120,000 votes in Ohio from an even worse failure in 2004.   The fact that the system has been able to roughly resemble a democratic election in most cases is no reason to be complacent. I can understand why Macatonis would want to shift the burden of proof — a Burkeanism-for-dummies “this is the way we’ve always done it” is essentially the only thing the electoral college has going for it — but I don’t agree that it’s appropriate, and even if it was there’s no burden of proof high enough to save the it.

More on the Transparent Indefensibility of the Electoral College. For what it’s worth this is one of the reasons why I’ve come around to the idea of agitating for a Constitutional Convention; many of the worst institutions in U.S. government are simply impossible to justify outside of “tradition.” We could hardly do worse just starting over.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 16, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Quote of the Day

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“Obama is on the ropes; why do we appear ready to hand him a win?” said one senior House Republican aide who requested anonymity to discuss the matter freely. “I just don’t want to co-own the economy by having to tout that we passed a jobs bill that won’t work or at least won’t do enough.”

Putting aside the spectacle of top Republicans once again admitting (in private) that they’re deliberately sabotaging the economy just to hurt Obama, there’s an even bigger issue at stake here. One of the things Matt Yglesias has had right for a long time is the growing institutional crisis in Congress, which increasingly has the lockstep partisan logic of a parliamentary system coupled with the procedures and myriad veto points of a presidential system. The worst-of-both-worlds result is a situation in which the minority party not only benefits from the failure of the majority party’s agenda but has the power to ensure that failure by preventing any legislation from being passed at all.

You just can’t run a government this way—at least, not for very long.

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