Sunday, March 04, 2007

Secretly Longing For An Emperor

The recent U.S. Attorney purge is textbook Bushco. The power grab is so blatant... so obvious... so odious that one can hardly decide on which egregious item to focus their outrage.
  1. The secret, select-Republicans-only meeting where the legislation was crafted and slipped into a bill that had already been debated on the floor.
  2. The betrayal of the American people by using the emotionally charged "Patriot Act" as the vehicle for the deed.
  3. The executive power grab with yet another legislative/judicial check-and-balance removed.
It's all ugly but personally I'm leaning toward #2. Before its passage there were serious discussions about the Patriot Act and its potential for creating abuses of power. I remember Bush assuring the gullible sheeple that he would never abuse his power and that if the Patriot Act didn't pass we were all gonna die. The irony of his choosing the renewed Patriot Act to commit the purge atrocity is brilliant. F*ck O. Henry -- if I were a high school English teacher, I would put this scam in my lesson plan.

Strangely, except for the wonkiest of wonks, this drama has gotten no play. The liberal media elite have barely taken note, the TV pundits would rather obsess over Anna Nicole, and the conservative media machine has conveniently ignored or misrepresented it. Certainly I have sensed no outcry from the general public.

Which is why I think there are those among us who secretly long for an emperor. It's the only explanation I can think of for the people who still support Bush.

My theory is that there is a segment of the population -- about 30% -- that will forever applaud Bush's disregard for shared power. The hyperbolous "Big Government" (i.e. government bureaucracy) is so abhorrent to them that they'd prefer to forgo the intricate checks and balances in favor of consolidating governmental power into a form they can understand. They want an emperor -- a bold, imperious figure with the power to make them great.

And maybe that's the greatest irony of all. Our founding fathers recognized the danger of centralized power and intended their new government to be humble, to be subordinate to its people. The focus was not on how to bestow great power; it was on how to restrain it. I would defy anyone to read the constitution and tell me that is not true. And screw the proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage -- the most moral statement ever made by any government, anywhere, was the declaration that democracy would not exist for the power of one man, but rather to empower all men.

But the thing about people-powered democracy is that it's hard work... you have to participate, you have to educate yourself, you have to stop and think about shit. A lot. Who has time for all that? It's much easier to give your power to someone else and let them figure it all out for you. And people are such optimists about it, too, assuming that they're deferring their power to someone who will use it wisely.

Too bad it doesn't always work out that way.

The day after the fire, Hitler persuaded President Hindenburg to issue a decree entitled, “For the Protection of the People and the State.” Justified as a “defensive measure against Communist acts of violence endangering the state,” the decree suspended the constitutional guarantees pertaining to civil liberties:

Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications; and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

Two weeks after the Reichstag fire, Hitler requested the Reichstag to temporarily delegate its powers to him so that he could adequately deal with the crisis. Denouncing opponents to his request, Hitler shouted, “Germany will be free, but not through you!” When the vote was taken, the result was 441 for and 84 against, giving Hitler the two-thirds majority he needed to suspend the German constitution. On March 23, 1933, what has gone down in German history as the “Enabling Act” made Hitler dictator of Germany, freed of all legislative and constitutional constraints.


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