Republicans Are Putting Tribal Loyalty Ahead of Constitutional Responsibility

By James Fallows

Only a country with as much going for it as the United States—scale, resources, location, historic openness to energy and ambition and change—could withstand a national governing structure as ill-matched to current conditions as America’s has become.

The intricate trade-offs and compromises behind the constitutional structures of the 1780s may have suited the fledgling United States of that era—which had a smaller total population than today’s Los Angeles, which ran only from the Atlantic coastline to the Appalachians, which had few international ambitions beyond survival, and which uneasily spanned both free and slave states. Almost every circumstance of today’s United States is different, except, of course, for the ambition of creating an ever-more-perfect Union.

What has kept the country going through these centuries of change is not the superbness of its original rules—which, significantly, have been adopted by few of the hundreds of new governments that have come into being since the American founding. (The closest comparison among surviving governments would be the Philippines, and then Liberia. Mexico tried a similar constitution in the mid-1800s. I argued this point in more detail back in 2010.)

Rather the United States has coped, and overall thrived, through a variety of non-constitutional advantages. These include its favorable placement on Earth, its early creation of mass-education and higher-education networks, its providentially most gifted leaders at times of its greatest crisis—Washington, Lincoln, FDR—and a long list of other factors. Among the latter has been a willingness by most political participants, most of the time, to observe the unwritten rules necessary for a democracy’s survival. The losing parties in presidential campaigns have complained, but have let the winners take office. The losing parties in big judicial battles have complained, but complied. The big crises in American governance have occurred in the moments when written-and-unwritten rules have been defied, …read more

Via:: The Atlantic


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