More on Authoritarianism

Charlie Pierce at TAPPED gets it:

Nobody runs for president without feeling deeply in their ambitious little souls that they’re going to need a dollop of authoritarian juice to get things done….
However, for six years, we have been afflicted with an Executive branch run amok, asserting privileges rejected 700 years ago, flaunting its disdain for the Constitution, and ignoring any limits whatsoever. In doing so, it has habituated the country to accept the habits of authoritarian government. Deep in the weeds of this Newsweek poll is this interesting passage:

Another 69 percent said they were concerned that the new Congress would keep the administration “from doing what is necessary to combat terrorism,” and two-thirds said they were concerned it would spend too much time investigating the administration and Republican scandals.

If you don’t think that, say, the Clinton people — that’s you, Rahm, and you, too, JamesPaul, and probably you, Senator Schumer — aren’t already fastening on those numbers to tell “serious” Democratic candidates to take a dive on killing the unitary executive dead, I have some vacation property in Arkansas I can get for you cheap. There’s no more important question on which to inquire of people who want to be the next president than what they believe the legitimate parameters — or, more important, the legitimate limits — on their power should be. Here’s a hint — anyone who prefaces their answer with the phrase, “We have to understand that the world is different…” isn’t worth your time. [emphasis added]

It’s not just about killing it dead, though. It’s about putting forward a better, more hopeful vision for what our politics ought to look like. As he says, there are and will be many on what amounts to the current political “left” for whom authoritarianism is a great temptation and, truth be told, I do not have great faith that the next president will be particularly committed to the abandonment of many aspects of the Unitary Executive, regardless of the letter following their name. Regardless, Pierce is right – there’s little more important than making these distinctions clear, even if it’s not immediately a political “winner.” There are some things far more important than short-term political victory.


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