As our Constitution was written in the age of lamplights and sailing ships, Jean-Phillipe Immarigeon, a Frenchman, proposes that we Americans rid ourselves of government gridlock by rewriting our revered document, recognizing that it was created centuries ago by men who wore wigs. (“Dissolve Congress,” by Jean -Philippe Immarigeon, Harper’s, February 2014, pgs 51-51.)
While Congress quarrels, he observes, the authority of the presidency is expanding through Executive Orders. According to Section 1021 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, that power mirrors those of a monarch in that he or she can imprison persons, native or foreign, without a writ of habeas corpus or a right to a public trial. (Ibid. pg. 52)
Immarigeon fears our democracy has fallen behind the times because we are saddled with an arcane system of checks and balances while in Europe power rests with the people. If a legislature is unable to settle its differences, it is dissolved and new elections mandated. (Ibid pg.52)
I know immarigeon means well. After all, he and his countrymen gave us the Statue of Liberty. But I fear he misconstrues what that beloved symbol means to us. He assumes, for example, that we expect Congress to work. That is a mistake. If Congress worked, it would threaten our entire economy. Imagine a world without those who thrive upon dissent, a world where there were no pollsters, pundits, superpacs, newspapers, columnists, bloggers or TV commentators. What would become of lawyers if people agreed upon a law’s intent? Law Libraries would disappear along with legal assistants and historians. A society without judges and the Supreme Court would be unthinkable. And last, but not least, we’d have no need for lobbyists without whom members of Congressseem seem to be clueless about what laws to enact.
My fellow Americans understand that I’ve barely touched upon the consequences of what might befall if we adopted Immarigeon’s proposal. But he is French is he not? We mustn’t expect him to understand institutionalized dysfunction. As well as being the cornerstone of our economy, it is also our national pastime. The free-for all embedded in the Constitution is the source of our strength. Surviving it makes us exceptional. But Will Rogers said better than I ever could:
This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super nation. DT #1948, Nov. 1, 1932
(Courtesy of fletchathustra.wordpress.com)