A User’s Guide to Our Illegitimate Government


Come Tuesday, when an unrepentant rapist is sworn into our nation’s highest court, the despotism of our government will be complete.

The President who nominated Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch will have taken office without the consent of a majority of voters.

The Senate majority that confirmed both represents only 46 percent of the population.

And between them, a Supreme Court majority will be established that lasts a generation.

You can take it further, if you’d like: Two other justices — John Roberts and Samuel Alito — were also named by a President who failed to win the confidence of voters in his first election. That he nominated them in his second term only underscores the point that he had a record to run on in the first place, that we cannot know how President Gore would have fared in 2004, or who might have opposed him. That history is now lost to us.

The first thing to do is acknowledge this, that our representative government no longer represents us, that we are not living under a democracy, but despotism. What we can and cannot change about it, short of a revolution to echo our first, is a separate issue. We must live in truth. We must not accept the lie that this is the way things must be.

That acknowledged, the next thing to grant is that given the structural power of snall states, the Constitution won’t be changed anytime soon. The nine largest states hold half the American population, and good luck convincing 25 other states to cede their undemocratic influence.

(Puerto Rico would come in thirtieth, by the way; DC boasts more citizens than Vermont and Wyoming.)

Given all that, what tools are available?

Supreme Court appointments are not irrevocable. Impeachment remains available, and under different language than a President — “during good behavior” is the condition of that lifetime term. And since impeachment is a political process anyway, good behavior means anything the House wants it to mean — say, lying during your confirmation hearings, or facts about magically disappearing loans coming to light. Never mind the practical impossibility of getting the Senate to convict: If a solid case can be made, publicly, then it should, that we may further appreciate the illegitimacy of our rulers.

There’s also nothing Constitutionally mandated about having nine justices, as any student of FDR knows. The number was changed a half-dozen times before settling on a baseball team in 1869. Cranking the Supreme Court to 11 should be on the table, should the opportunity present itself.

At the other end of the chain, we won’t be rid of the Electoral College in our lifetimes, but there is no requirement that electors reflect the popular vote of their states — the contraption was originally conceived as a hiring committee, after all. To that end, the National Popular Vote compact now covers 172 electoral votes, under legislation that kicks in once a majority is reached: These states would vote for the actual winner, settling the matter.

Which brings us back to the Senate, home of that minority tyranny. Half the Senate itself only represents 18 percent of the population. We’re Constitutionally stuck with two senators per state, even states that merit only one Representative by population — Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, to be specific. That’s fourteen senators right there, in case you’re wondering just how despotic the Senate really is. Half the country only gets eighteen.

But while a simple Senate majority can pass any bill it wants, senators can also establish their own procedures, which is how we ended up with the filibuster — a loophole of parliamentary process that took a generation to be noticed. An enlightened Senate could require the assent of Senators representing half the population before a bill or nomination moves to the floor, and while a tyrannical minority could still vote it down, the procedure itself would highlight the deeply undemocratic nature of the institution for everyone’s edification.

It all doesn’t sound like much, but that’s life under a despotic power, and the sooner a substantial number of citizens are aware of this — particularly those who write for national publications — the sooner we might actually be able to do something substantial about it.

Or we could just cut to the chase and have another revolution. If a government lacks the consent of the governed, the governed can always burn all it down and start over.

53 comments:

12:32 am • Saturday • October 6, 2018

It’s kinda incredible how the Republinazis have destroyed the integrity and legitimacy of all three branches of our government in under two years. That’s gotta be some kind of record.

Regardless, they can’t hold us hostage forever. Eventually, we’re gonna break free, and it could be as soon as next month. They may install a lying, alcoholic rapist on the court, but ultimately it will be an empty victory. They’ve proven themselves unfit and incompetent at actually governing, and they’ve earned the righteous scorn of decent people. Without any shred of decency, humanity, or moral authority, they ain’t got shit. The tide is gonna turn, and then they’ll get what’s coming to them.

This will not stand.

2:54 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

Yes, but…

Wasn’t the Tea Party running around screaming, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” ?

How can we ensure that we don’t become, or aren’t already, the progressive Tea Party?

3:27 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

@JNOV: Maybe if the federal government acted upon the consent of the governed. That would do it. Reagan won the popular vote. Twice. I was far from happy, but if a majority of citizens want to drive this country off a cliff, ain’t much I can do about it.

The tea party was a rebellion of an entitled minority, with no grounds for redress other than their traditional privileges being undermined. I see no comparison.

3:39 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

@JNOV: To put it another way: One is radicalized when institutional options are structurally foreclosed.

But that’s not the way I’m playing it: I’m arguing that a mass awareness of fundamental, harmful illegitimacy will either lead to change, or revolution will be considered a reasonable alternative. You can take it to the streets without throwing Molotovs, but only so long as that seems efficacious.

3:48 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

@nojo: Also, the reason I repeatedly invoke the Revolution is that the grievance identified in the Declaration is a grievance we share, that our government no longer expresses the will of the people, and is, by the terms of our independence, despotic.

The tea party, on the other hand, only likes the part where white boys rule.

3:52 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

Take heart, friends. The Republinazis have over-played their hand, and we’ll soon be ready to deliver some karmic justice.

“At least Reagan could fake a pleasant personality on occasion.”

— My mom

4:13 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

@nojo: When an institution as ossified and wedded to power as the New York Times declares on its front page as they did yesterday that the Supreme Court now has a legitimacy crisis, then they have a major legitimacy crisis. This shit is starting to break into the public consciousness.

4:25 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

@nojo: Both DC and Puerto Rico have legitimate and rightful claims to statehood. Also, a majority of states could adopt the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, thus pledging their electoral delegates to the popular vote winner. A dozen states already have.

Those two changes alone would help a vastly more fair system of representation, no revolution required. All that’s missing is the political will.

They’ve perverted and corrupted our current institutions, but the damage can be repaired.

4:35 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

@¡Andrew!: Yeah, I’ve a few other green shoots in the national political media today, along with some standard Both Sides bullshit in the Times. But I take heart that the chatterers are starting to chatter about it, because, alas, that’s the only wat to get some traction around here. Start with the truth, take it from there.

4:45 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

@¡Andrew!: I don’t have the details at hand, but Maxine Waters has proposed a clever scheme that would absorb residential DC into neighboring states, no new state needed. All the Constitution requires is that DC be no larger than ten square miles. Nothing about it being smaller.

4:49 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

Hell, they’re not waiting until Tuesday. Kavanaugh being sworn in before midnight.

4:56 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

@nojo: The Democrats can add more members to the Supreme Court. I’m no expert by any means, but my understanding is that legal scholars think that’d produce far better outcomes anyway.

5:31 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

First off, this is a class war, and strategically, it’s an information war.

There’s gonna be a time, maybe five or ten years from now, when we’re gonna look back on this time as our generation’s Cuban Missile Crisis, as in “wow, I can’t believe that really happened, and we got through that.”

6:46 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

@¡Andrew!: This being America, the conflict is racial as well as class, unless you mean both are the same.

We used to bitch about that in the 80s, that po’ white folk were voting against their interests. They weren’t. Their interests just aren’t economic.

7:04 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

Add all the protectorates to the US. Meh. Most probably don’t want to deal with our shit.

Okay. I’m about to get shitfaced. I’m sure you both are making cogent and persuasive arguments.

Would be nice to be a representative democracy. Is the experiment over?

8:39 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

@JNOV: Pick a date when it ended. I’m fixated on 2000 right now.

But, hey, awareness. If word gets around what a sham the Senate is, who knows what may happen.

11:01 pm • Saturday • October 6, 2018

I feel worse than I did the morning after in November 2016.

1:10 am • Sunday • October 7, 2018

@nojo: I was so baked when I wrote that.

Still true, though.

Plantation America’s rulers don’t care about race, not really, they just exploit white America’s racist hatred as a strategic tactic in order to maintain their stranglehold on power.

Enlarging our number of representatives hopefully would begin to add equitable and proportional gender, ethnic, and racial representation, which is the only way to fix our politics, ultimately.

8:43 am • Sunday • October 7, 2018

The next person who posts Howard Zinn’s 2005 Don’t Worry Be Happy essay on the Supreme Court gets shot.

8:47 am • Sunday • October 7, 2018

@¡Andrew!: I’ve been lying in wait for someone to argue that the Senate as constructed protects minority rights — the minority in question being white Americans in small states. Plenty of other minorities whose rights receive far less indulgence.

10:08 am • Sunday • October 7, 2018

@SanFranLefty:

From Washington’s kickass senators:

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell

“It is a very sad day. President Trump promised to put a Justice on the court who would take away rights generations of Americans fought to secure. Now that Justice is on the bench.”

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

“With this vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, Senate Republicans have once again failed women and survivors, abdicated the Senate’s constitutional advice and consent role, and undermined the public’s confidence in our nation’s Supreme Court.

I am disappointed, frustrated, and angry today—but I’m more motivated than ever to get up tomorrow and keep fighting for the families I represent in Washington state and for the kind of country I know we can be.

Twenty-seven years ago I watched the Anita Hill hearings with my daughter and got so mad at the way she was treated that I decided to run for the Senate, ignored everyone who told me I had no shot, and won. I had hoped we could have made more progress in the years since, but I am very confident that there are some women and girls watching the Senate these past two weeks who feel the way I did back then, who will channel that anger, and who will be joining me in Congress in the years ahead.”

10:11 am • Sunday • October 7, 2018

@SanFranLefty:

Inspiring statement from Pramila Jayapal, my representative:

“Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘We go ahead together or we go down together.’ Today, it is clear the party of Donald Trump wants us to go down together, ramming through a Supreme Court nominee at the expense of the legitimacy of our highest court and public trust.

They could have chosen another nominee. They could have let a full investigation find out all the facts. Instead, for the first time in our modern history, the Senate has confirmed an individual whose relevant documents were not released to the public and who has, at best, misled the Senate about his involvement in critical issues such as warrantless surveillance and past judicial confirmations. Worse still, this nominee has a giant asterisk next to his name around the multiple sexual assault allegations against him. In the end, his overt partisanship, belligerence and disrespect during his last hearings were shocking and made it clear that he is simply not fit to serve as a Supreme Court Justice.

His confirmation, opposed by a plurality of the American people, undermines the reputation, credibility and, ultimately, the success of the highest court of this land.

In the past week, at the White House’s apparent direction, FBI investigators did not even speak to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. I was moved to tears by her deeply credible and brave testimony. Her courage will continue to be an inspiration to survivors across the country. Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation today is, simply, a slap in the face to all the women across our country who simply have not been believed for so long. Today, to those survivors of sexual assault who are weeping and despondent, I send courage and strength. Do not lose hope. Your experiences are real, your pain and stories are part of the tapestry of injustice that only calls us even more strongly to work together for justice and rise up—together.

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, I will do everything in my power to ensure full oversight and accountability—no matter what the US Senate does today. We will never be deterred in the fight for justice that we can all believe in.”

10:30 am • Sunday • October 7, 2018

@SanFranLefty: Also, statistically speaking, we’re gonna live long enough to see Prezinazi AntiChrist croak in the not-so-distant future, so that alone is worth keeping up the fight.

The line to piss on his grave is gonna stretch from here to Nebraska.

11:00 am • Sunday • October 7, 2018

@¡Andrew!: Dibs on the beer concession. Mourners are gonna want to be loaded up for their opportunity.

9:43 pm • Sunday • October 7, 2018

@SanFranLefty: I’m feeling echoes of November 1980, the sense that things are gonna get a lot worse before they get better. But that one only lasted twelve years.

8:23 pm • Monday • October 8, 2018

Subject: Thanks for the Kavanaugh nightmare, Yale Law!
Sent: Andrew
To: admissions.law@yale.edu, alumni.law@yale.edu, cdo.law@yale.edu, publicaffairs.law@yale.edu, registrar.law@yale.edu; and 1 more…

Oct 8 at 5:16 PM

Thanks for the Kavanaugh nightmare, Yale Law!

Stop promoting rape culture and kleptocracy!

12:54 pm • Tuesday • October 9, 2018

@SanFranLefty: So do I. Much more hopeless, and depressed to the point I had to stop listening to or reading news or social media for my sanity’s sake. I don’t know what meds our dear @¡Andrew! Andrew is taking, but I need that prescription.

1:31 pm • Tuesday • October 9, 2018

@¡Andrew!: I assume you saw this piece in Slate about the Jed & Amy shitshow at YLS?

1:50 pm • Tuesday • October 9, 2018

@SanFranLefty: Sure did. (deep breath). I’ve asked this a million times, but seriously: What the focke is wrong with these people???

They need to walk across campus and have a sit down with Dr. Bandy Lee, so that she can then psychiatristsplain why they keep churning out nation-ruining sociopaths.

1:53 pm • Tuesday • October 9, 2018

@Mistress Cynica: Just a wee touch of Zoloft in the morning, with an industrial strength dose of Green Magic and sitcoms like Mom after dinner.

4:24 pm • Tuesday • October 9, 2018

Nikki Haley just resigned to spend more time with her family one day after a watchdog group filled a complaint about her private air travel. Seems small potatoes by Tdumbp plundering standards, but she’s sworn that she’s not running for public office again, meaning not Miss Lindsey’s seat. Any speculation or conspiracy theories? They’re all we’ve got.

Like, maybe she wrote the infamous NYT Op-Ed?

5:10 pm • Tuesday • October 9, 2018

@¡Andrew!: Chatter that she signaled her intention six months ago, but everyone was still totally surprised, and why not after an election when the personnel usually shifts, and I can’t help wondering about the proximity to Kavanaugh — get the hell out without burning bridges.

7:07 pm • Tuesday • October 9, 2018

@nojo: It’s equally possible that she knows some absolutely insane shit is about to come out, and she’s hightailing it out of town with something of her professional reputation intact before the hearings and trials start next year.

7:12 pm • Tuesday • October 9, 2018

@¡Andrew!: That would work. Maybe Mueller called.

7:31 pm • Tuesday • October 9, 2018

I mean, I found her performance at the UN to be appalling, but then she barely rates a bronze in this Asshole Olympics, especially in comparison to the King of the Assholes himself.

7:44 pm • Tuesday • October 9, 2018

Once this horrendous ordeal is over, I’m just gonna pretend that we were in one of those WORST TIMELINE time travel movies, and that someone can zap back to 2000 and stop the Republicans from stealing the election for CaliguBush. None of this insane shit should be happening.

7:49 pm • Tuesday • October 9, 2018

@¡Andrew!: Republicans are gonna throw off their clothes like that neonazi kid and pretend they weren’t there. And pundits will take them at their word.

8:09 pm • Tuesday • October 9, 2018

Oh, and you know supposedly Ronan Farrow now has those backstage Apprentice tapes of Prezinazi Orangecenity spouting all manner of racist epitaphs. Imagine being the face of the US after that comes out.

9:43 pm • Tuesday • October 9, 2018

@¡Andrew!: Golly! Nikki’s resignation letter is dated last Wednesday — day after Trump mocked Ford at Mississippi rally. Guess I’ll keep that chip on the table.

10:11 pm • Tuesday • October 9, 2018

@¡Andrew!: Not sure who that’s gonna shame at this point, besides the rest of us. The pee tape would have far more entertainment value.

10:58 am • Wednesday • October 10, 2018

@¡Andrew!: Remember St. Elsewhere? Maybe we are all living in a snow globe and some pumpkin colored idiot just keeps shaking it.

11:43 am • Wednesday • October 10, 2018

@DElurker: I’d rather wake up with Suzanne Pleshette.

12:05 pm • Wednesday • October 10, 2018

@nojo: Yeah, the Republinazis would just repackage Twitler’s racist rants as mid-term election commercials. The mask is off.

2:37 pm • Wednesday • October 10, 2018

@nojo: I thought that you were more a Bob than Suzanne kind of fellow.

4:40 pm • Wednesday • October 10, 2018

@DElurker: Context determines all.

4:14 pm • Friday • October 12, 2018

Hope everyone enjoyed Mental Health Awareness Week!

5:31 pm • Friday • October 12, 2018

@¡Andrew!: I’m aware of mine more than ever.

5:40 pm • Friday • October 12, 2018

@¡Andrew!: This headline is the understatement of the century:
Trump May Not Be Crazy, But the Rest of Us Are Getting There Fast

7:22 pm • Friday • October 12, 2018

@SanFranLefty: I hate the conventional wisdom bullshit usually spouted by Politico, but that article was spot on. Anyone who’s ever survived an abusive family could tell you that Tdumbp is a mean, stupid, abusive POS, if not a dry drunk. It’s like the whole country is now in an abusive relationship against our will.

7:26 pm • Friday • October 12, 2018

And I’m totally OCD about checking the news now, because I need to know asap when to grab my family and my Go Bag and GTFO.

No way am I gonna let the white trash Despicables toss my dead body in a mass grave while simultaneously ranting and raving about how they’re the Real Victims.

12:46 am • Saturday • October 13, 2018

@nojo: Coincidence. She’s in a dead end job (was never gonna get promoted to SoS) and is apparently a million dollars in debt. She’s gonna go make K Street bank.

12:56 am • Saturday • October 13, 2018

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Well, not from the Saudis, if K Street abandons them. (Although that one bailer may prove an outlier.)

7:29 pm • Sunday • October 14, 2018

@JNOV: we are liberals – we don’t do that. but it is time to be as ruthless as Mitch – pack the courts, strip the GOP of power, anything that’s necessary. They’re in the gutter, so we need to fight them there.

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