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Monday, July 07, 2003

Pitchfork Pat and Constitutional Democracy-This Pat Buchanan rant against the Supreme Court has some people scratching their heads. Jeff Collins, back from his Mayo sojourn, has this comment on the piece
Question: Why does anybody listen to Buchanan any more? I haven't really paid any attention to anything he said in years. Another question: Who changed, Buchanan or me? I used to thing Buchanan was pretty reasonable, but over the last 6 or 7 years I've come to see him as a blustering, slightly crazy windbag. Is it me or him?
It's him, Jeff. Back in the early 90s, he tapped the angry blue-collar conservative vein of American politics; however, a decade of general economic prosperity along with a more-conservative Dubya rather than a center-conservative dad leading the GOP has pushed him off in the political wilderness. I think the Uruguay round of GATT and NAFTA was the final straw for the paleocons; the WTO made trade rules stick and gave us some autonomy. Paleocons are pessimists by nature and they feared the US getting the shaft from the WTO more than it helped and feared a loss of jobs to Mexico via NAFTA. With GATT and NAFTA in play and a lack of progress in getting a moral conservative agenda done disheartening many, Pat challenged Bush 41 in ’92 and did fairly well, giving him false hope. By 1996, the economy had improved and a flock of free-market-oriented conservatives had taken the conservative side of the party. Steve Forbes or Catholic conservative Alan Keyes addressed the feelings of conservatives better than Buchanan, and a New Hampshire win was the highlight of the campaign for him. With moral conservatives flocking to Keyes, the part of the ’92 coalition that was left, that of blue-collar anti-free-trade conservatives, was better represented by Ross Perot. By 2000, the Keyes-Bauer (Gary, not Robert) wing of the party had pretty much given Pat no room to maneuver in the GOP and he took a flyer and ran for the Reform Party nomination, gutting the party in the process, as a messy fight from non-conservative Perogies killed off what was left of the Perot movement. Today, libertarians have a better shot of getting a plurality than paleocons, and Buchanan is frustrated with the current system. Eugene Volokh rightly calls Pat on tracing the decline of the Constitution to the Civil War, which seemed to be more of a Lew Rockwell Dixiephile thing than classic Buchanan. I think Buchanan's problem is that our system tries to respect the Constitution; we don't lock people up for supporting the Confederacy. Had he said something comparable about the Nazis, he'd be arrested in many parts of Europe. We have the First Amendment that allows him to say his piece and ACLU types who will defend his right to say them and a Supreme Court that will enforce that right, even if Congress passed and the President signed a bill outlawing saying nice things about the Confederacy. The Supreme Court is made up of nine humans; Congress is made up of 535 humans and the President is human as well. They make mistakes and the recent sodomy case is one of them. However, if we don't have judicial review, we don't have a constitutional democracy. Without it, Congress and the President can pass laws without paying attention to the Constitution. It keeps a temporary majority from oppressing a minority. If they wanted the Constitution that easy to amend, the framers wouldn’t have put in the 2/3 of both houses and ¾ of the states rule. However, there are people that Buchanan would like to suppress. He’s a European-style God-and-country conservative, not the free-market of goods and ideas American-style. Pat seems more comfortable with Franco than with Bush 41. If Bush can unilaterally put the Ten Commandments in courthouses, as Pat suggests he can, Hillary can take them down from churches next go-round. The route to correcting the problems Buchanan sees is to get a new-and-improved Supreme Court or to pass constitutional amendments overriding their decisions. Even if sodomy and de-facto racial quotas are OK, having the Supreme Court beats the heck out of an unchecked liberal government in the future. I preferred a flawed constitutional democracy to a flawed theocratic authoritarian regime or a flawed atheistic authoritarian regime.

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