Scott Brown’s defeat of Democrat Martha Coakley in Massachusetts has sent waves of dismay, and of jubilation, around a polarized and divided nation. The stunning political upset offered at least one lesson of a non-partisan nature. Coakley’s nonchalant campaign reaffirmed the old maxim — never take your opponent for granted!
How Coakley slipped into complacency after winning the December 8th Democratic primary is easy to understand. Since I lived on Boston’s Beacon Hill in the early 1970s, Massachusetts has remained a decidedly one party state. The idea must have seemed preposterous that a little known state senator from the marginalized GOP could defeat the Democratic machine and claim Ted Kennedy’s seat. And yet Brown managed to ride a wave of anger and resentment against the D.C. establishment.
“Here the people rule,” the motto engraved at the Capitol Building, is likely to produce chortles or sneers nowadays, rather than patriotic heartthrobs. In rating Congress, public approval for job performance has long been abysmally minimal. Nauseating spectacles issuing from inside the beltway do not help, like last December’s “Cornhusker kickback” to Sen. Ben Nelson.
In 2006 the Democrats rode another wave of ire, generated by widespread loathing for the modus operandi typical of homesteading Federal politicians. Two years later, riding such a wave of disgust, young Senator Barak Obama made history from astride his surfboard of hope.
Since Vietnam, beginning with Jimmy Carter, one election cycle after another has seen adroit political operatives capitalize on electoral angst. We the indignant voters are expected to play our role in a democracy limited to ping-ponging back and forth between two fraudulent and dysfunctional political parties.
For those of us who have not lowered our expectations to the point of despair about the nation’s future, our civic horizons need to broaden. We must first recognize the futility of trying to put a derailed political system back on the tracks by alternating between a Democratic and a Republican version of the Federal Government — which (to paraphrase Ronald Reagan) comprises not part of the solution, but part of the problem. A political system demeaned by bad leadership from corrupt political parties is worse than worthless for the purpose of restoring America the Beautiful under God and the written Constitution.
Can mental illness afflict a collective? Maybe so. If the American electorate really believes that a GOP surge in 2010 will turn the country around, then the populace is suffering from that form of insanity defined as repeating the same process over and over and expecting a different result.
If Catholics believe that we can start reestablishing the Judeo-Christian character of America by electing a pro-abortion politician from the Bay State who wants to waterboard helpless captives, then we need a reality homily. Our real situation is this: With the Democrats in power, the country declines at a steep angle; while the Republicans lead us down a slope sometimes less steep. Indeed there is much to be said for tactical delay. But neither the steep nor the gradual rate of national decline offers rational hope for the country’s long-term future.
There is some consolation in the fact that ours has not been the only democracy subject to deceptive hopefulness. In ancient Athens, where democracy began, orators lacking wisdom mislead the people into an almost fatal act of folly in 215, B.C. Locked into the epic Peloponnesian War with Sparta, the Athenians bolstered their hopes via a novel but irrational adventure: they voted to invade the distant island of Sicily.
Likewise Senator elect Brown wants to use enhanced interrogation techniques to defend the American Empire, while doing little to stop the abortion holocaust here at home. In Congress, most members of his party are gung ho in foreign affairs, but exhibit Laodicean lukewarmness in fighting the all-important culture war.
Even the great theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are subject to distortion. And yet, in its unsullied form, hope is an exceptional and meritorious quality of American populism. In the United States we have higher expectations than, say, the body politic in France, Germany, Italy or the UK (the big four of the European Union). There, citizens tend to be more cynical and jaded about their countries’ susceptibility to salutary reform.
In the early 1990s, for example, a great populist upsurge coalesced in this country around the principle of rotation in office (a reform movement unique to the USA among post-WW II Western democracies). Our hope was that by forcing new blood into the U.S. Congress, we could cleanse and democratize the Legislative Branch. Until struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1995 (U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton), the term limits movement constituted the most realistically hopeful initiative from the grass roots since Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. Prior to that, the Populist / Progressive reforms of pre-WWI showed the nobility in our national character.
As we move into the second decade of the 21st century, we can draw hopefully from the wellsprings of fundamental reform. But the forlorn hope associated with ping-pong politics, is a snare and a fraud. Instead of table tennis as a metaphor for hope, perhaps football will cast a brighter light for our political reflections, given that the upcoming Super Bowl is currently impressing itself upon our national consciousness.
Football is a game often won in the fourth quarter. Unlikely scenarios for victory provide the suspense that makes the gridiron like a Shakespearian stage. Alas, however, reform that restores the country and brings our nation back from sin and apostasy, is looking about as likely as the old “Hail Mary pass” in the last seconds of the game. But the chanciness of success is academic for the team that is running out of time but still hoping to score the winning touchdown. It is surely worth the effort.
As the postmodernist regime consolidates its grip on America, it is a waste of effort to look to Congress for solutions, or to the Federal Courts which constitute a major portion of the problem, or to the Presidency, as the dashed hopes associated with Obama and his immediate predecessors indicates. Tempus fugit, time is flying, while one last legal recourse remains.
The Article V “convention for proposing amendments” has been in the play book (in the Constitution) for more than two centuries. It is time for the convention to come off the bench and enter the game. The convention, bequeathed to us by the Framers, is our best hope of circumventing the plutocracy and oligarchy which dominate and deprave the nation’s Capitol City.
Nor should the pedagogical implications be scorned. In stark contrast to incumbent reelection schemes, a constitutional convention would be a temporary assembly exhibiting the beauty of real representative democracy to our posterity and to onlookers world wide. As observed in the Cooley Law Review, by the founder of one of the nation’s top law schools, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Michigan, Thomas E. Brennan: “In an Article V amendatory convention the people of the states are brought together in their most sovereign capacity. Such a convention would be an awesome and august assemblage. It would bring a new, responsible dimension to American politics.”
[For more on the constitutional convention as a genuine hope for radical turnabout in the nation's course, see "Insurrection of Suede," the fourth chapter of Treatise on Twelve Lights, 2010 edition.]