Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Constitution

U.S. political culture sacralizes the Constitution. The United States was actually somewhat unusual in that a bunch of people sat down and consciously wrote a blueprint for government of a newly founded nation. European governments evolved, and many do not have any written constitution at all. Written constitutions are the norm for newly liberated former colonies, although many of them have gone through military coups or other upheavals that resulted in wholesale replacement of the document, often more than once.

As Professor Campos compellingly argues, the Constitution of the United States is not an object that anyone should hold sacred or even particularly admire. The occasion for his essay is the NYT's 1619 project that examines the history of slavery in the U.S. and the long shadow it casts today. It seems that many conservatives are objecting to this, on the grounds that honest discussion of history will undermine the legitimacy of the Constitution. That seems a typical conservative habit of thought -- pretend that inconvenient truths do not exist. As Campos summarizes:

The original Constitution failed so badly that an exceptionally bloody civil war had to be fought in order to amend it (The amendment itself took place at literal gunpoint: a historical detail that our rhapsodes of the original document tend to pass over in discreet silence).
As [Ian] Millhiser also points out, that amendment process then failed again in short order, as the South won the peace after losing the war. [Disenfranchising African Americans for the next 100 years.]
We are very much living with the consequences of that postbellum victory today, in the form of increasingly extreme forms of minority rule. In twenty years, 35 states full of old white people will send 70 senators to a body in which 70% of the nation’s population — the relatively younger, relatively non-white, relatively economically productive part of the population — will be represented by all of 30 senators.
This is not an accident. It is, like the election of Donald Trump, a direct product of the original constitutional design.
The sad truth is that we are stuck with it, however. The amendment process would require those 35 states full of old white people to go along with surrendering their privilege. Campos doesn't see a way out of this. Do you?

And give me a fucking break. Pointing out white privilege, and efforts to defend it, is not racist. Defending white privilege is racist. 

Further give me a fucking break. Some of my best friends are white.


Don Quixote said...

South Africa's evolution provides a partial model of transformation to majority rule.

The trick will be to evolve without bloodshed. Must ardent Southerners provoke a second "War of Northern Aggression"? This is a myth, of course, because not only were the first shots fired by southern forces at Ft. Sumter, but Lincoln repeatedly extended olive branches to the South in an effort to avoid war.

The danger in the wealthy Caucasians holding on to power in the U.S. is that 1) it is based on a lie (racism ... there is only one race, and we're all descended from Africans from 80,000 years ago), and, as Cervantes has pointed out, 2) the U.S. possesses nuclear weapons out the wazoo. When this empire goes down, it can go down swinging an arsenal so big that it takes down everybody with it. Well, not the cockroaches and rats, but all the humans.

mojrim said...

I'd say our best bet lies in incrementalism. The senate and the electoral college aren't going anywhere in the foreseeable future but we can change electoral politics significantly with public campaign finance, and the path to that lies in an amendment declaring that money is not speech and corporations aren't people. That idea has enormous approval across the political spectrum, wolfpac having worked successfully worked with tea party groups to get it through state legislatures.

Don Quixote said...

Bravo to mojrim's suggestion. Get money OUT of politics in the U.S. And yes, corporations aren't people. Corporations set up shop wherever they want ... just TRY to emigrate as an individual to another country legally!

I'm also for open borders for PEOPLE. Let people live where they want. It could work.

Don Quixote said...

Again ... there is only ONE race: Homo sapiens. All our mitochondrial DNA leads back to those ancestors in Africa 80,000 years ago.

Racism is inherently racist! It exists only in the minds of insecure, entitled people. Unfortunately, these people create it in reality and it affects almost everyone else ... like a virus.

Cervantes said...

Well, I don't think totally open borders really works in the current world system of nation states. It can work within regions, such as Europe. But where you have enormous differentials in wealth the resulting tsunami of migration would be too disruptive, and also create major political problems. The basic reason the Brits got into the Brexit mess is because of political backlash over open borders. Yeah, it's largely racist, or at least ethnocentric, as we say, but it's reality. I think the U.S. would benefit from more immigration but I think it does need to be managed.

Dr Porkenheimer said...

Mother Jones on Elizabeth Warren's de facto immigration position:

I have previously criticized Republicans who accused liberals of wanting “open borders.” President Trump tweets about this endlessly. But I have to admit that it’s hard to see much daylight between Warren’s plan and de facto open borders. As near as I can tell, CBP will be retasked away from patrolling the border looking for illegal crossings; if border officers happen to apprehend someone, they’ll be released almost immediately; if they bother to show up for their court date, they’ll have a lawyer appointed for them; and employers will have no particular reason to fear giving them a job.

Am I missing something here? Does Warren’s plan explicitly make it vanishingly unlikely that anyone crossing our border will ever be caught and sent back?

Cervantes said...

While I generally think well of Kevin Drum, he appears to be factually wrong about this.

"Migrants who enter the US without papers would still be committing a crime, and they could still be deported. But as Dara Lind explained for Vox earlier this year, making crossing the border without papers a civil offense would have big ramifications, including ending the practice of family separation. “The Trump administration’s attempts at ‘zero tolerance’ prosecution of illegal entry were the legal basis for its widespread separation of families in 2018: Children were separated because their parents were being transferred to criminal custody for prosecution,” Lind writes.

Warren also says she would get rid of government contracts with private detention facilities, and cut down on the use of detention for migrants awaiting their day in court altogether. She cited Vox’s reporting on alternatives to detention facilities, including electronic monitoring and social work monitoring, in identifying programs she’d invest in.
Warren, like former O’Rourke, proposes making immigration courts independent, removing the attorney general’s to overturn judges’ rulings. She also is calling for a public defender program so immigrants can have counsel in court.
She’s also proposing to reshape Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, focusing the agencies’ efforts on screening cargo, identifying counterfeit goods, and preventing smuggling and trafficking, and ending the program that allows local law enforcement to be deputized as immigration deportation forces."

In fact, the vast majority -- I don't remember the exact number but it's well over 90% - of people do show up for their court dates. And she doesn't say anything about not enforcing requirements for working legally.

Dr Porkenheimer said...

Being soft on illegal immigration may work for her in the primary, but it won't in the general election. A huge percentage of voters are very concerned about this issue. It's an issue that has been kicked down the road by every administration since Ronald Reagan and Trump's promise to address it was a big factor in his win in 2016.

If Warren wins the nomination, she will then have to move to a more moderate position on border enforcement or she will surely lose.

Cervantes said...

It's hard to say. I think public attitudes about this are evolving. Most people definitely want immigration to be controlled, and see illegal immigration as a problem, but the majority actually want more legal immigration and feel compassion for asylum seekers. But she may have to put more emphasis on deterring illegal immigration, that seems true.

Tom Saylor said...

You look at a certain Harvard student, note that he's black, and assume that he was admitted to Harvard largely because he is black, i.e., despite having lower test scores than white and Asian applicants who were not admitted. I'd say that's a racist assumption.

You look at a white person in a position of authority or even moderate well being and assume that she enjoys that position largely because she's white, i.e., because of a white privilege that has given her an advantage over more deserving people of color. I'd say that too is a racist assumption.

Cervantes said...

I don't get your point. You don't have to make assumptions about any particular individual to know that white privilege is real.

Tom Saylor said...

Sorry if I misunderstood you. I thought you were alluding to the identitarian debating tactic of “pointing out” an opponent’s “white privilege” in an attempt to shame the opponent into silence. Those who use this tactic typically make the sort of assumption that I called out in my previous comment. If it wasn’t this tactic that you were defending as “not racist” at the end of your post, I’m happy hear it.

Cervantes said...

I have no idea how you would have that perception.