Monday, 7 July 2003

More on Dean

John Cole thinks Dean’s going to win the Democratic nomination. I guess if I had to put my money on anyone, I’d probably put it on Dean too—even though there are some Democrats who don’t think Dean is credible on national security. But when credibility on national security in the field of candidates is solely differentiated by whether or not you served in a war that half of the Democratic primary voters don’t remember (hi, John Kerry!) and the other half opposed, I don’t believe that’s much of a handicap.

Keeping the republic

Mark Kleiman writes:

If a republic is to maintain itself as a republic, rather than degenerating into an oligarchy or party dictatorship, it must be the case that the party in power can’t reliably maintain itself in power. Imagine, just as a hypothetical, a republic whose campaign finance system gave a big natural advantage to whichever party was most favorable to big personal wealth and corporate interests. Imagine further that the party favorable to those interests managed to get control of both the executive and the legislative branches. Now imagine further that the leadership of that party had no scruples about exploiting to the fullest its powers to help friends and punish enemies, in the interest of making its dominance permanent.

He goes on to claim that this is currently the case. Of course, it was also the case for the Democratic Party between 1961 and 1969; the Democratic Party between 1977 and 1981; and the Democratic Party between 1993 and 1995. In each case, the Democrats had the unqualified financial backing of “big personal wealth and corporate interests,” “control of both the executive and the legislative branches,” and “no scruples about exploiting to the fullest its powers to help friends and punish enemies.” Furthermore, unlike the Republicans today, these Democratic majorities had a Supreme Court that was broadly inclined to promote their social and economic agenda (even during the brief Clinton period). Yet, amazingly, we still have a republic, despite all of these shocking assaults on the separation of powers.

I won’t dispute the fundamental truth of Madison’s insights in Federalist 10. But a few years of unified government isn’t going to undermine the republic today, especially when the party in control of that government is essentially continuing the substantive policies of the previous Democratic administration with some fiddling at the margins of the tax code.