Four items briefly noted. Dramatic churn in what we may have thought immutable political arrangements in these days would be easy to miss amid the rush of everyday drama from the Trump regime. Here are some straws in the wind.
- Last fall, citizens of South Dakota passed new ethics and campaign finance rules by a 52 percent initiative vote. Last week, their Republican dominated legislature and governor threw that measure in the trash can -- and even made it impossible for their voters to bring it back by another initiative.
So much for government by the people.
- Meanwhile, in Britain, a vote of the British parliament kicked the legs out from under their several hundred year old "unwritten constitution" when they decided that a narrow national popular vote to leave the European Union must override their historic mandate and prerogative to govern through parliament. Writing at Open Democracy, Adam Ramsey and Anthony Barnett explain:
The need is the more urgent since the Scottish National Party won the vast majority of seats from its section of the country and stands against Brexit, for a far more equitable society, and popular sovereignty for the Scottish people exercised through the Scottish parliament. That is, so-called "Great Britain" is breaking up. We probably ought to notice.
- And then there are manifold questions about the viability of the U.S. constitution. Legal scholars Jack Balkin and Sanford Levinson have been discussing this for a decade, long before our 18th century document yielded the present President, elected with a minority of the vote, who recognizes no constitutional restraints. Here are some abbreviated comments by Balkin:
Democracy and Dysfunction is absolutely worth reading in its entirety; although written by high-end lawyers, it is accessible to anyone who are willing to invest a little effort.
- And one more lawyerly contribution to understanding this moment: Mark Graber, in The Normal Politics of Abnormal Presidents takes up what we need to do now that our constitutional order is failing us.
I agree profoundly with that last paragraph. Not being a lawyer, I'm also in favor of every popular initiative to impede the demagogue -- strikes, marches, blockades, Congressional call-ins, pray-ins, and modes of popular protest we haven't invented yet -- but we need to use the levers of popular sovereignty as much as possible along the way or we won't like where we arrive.