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Yes and No

12 Oct 2017History Essays

Has the practice of politics, as discussed in Hardball, moved our government too far from the framers' original intent of the Constitution as discussed in A Brilliant Solution?

My answer: Yes and no.

No, because I think A Brilliant Solution narrates how the large or macro structures of the American government and of American politics came historically into being. In the process, it painted a warts-and-all picture of the delegates of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, as well as of the deliberations they undertook to craft the American Constitution. (I don't think the question is about how the framers of the Constitution acted or worked and how this is similar to or different from how politicians, big and small, at present act or work. I think it is about the actual legacy of the delegates, about what they have left us with.)

Hardball, on the other hand, presents and discusses what are usually called "rules to live by" in American politics. If A Brilliant Solution presents the origin of the macro-structures of American government and politics, Hardball shows the their actual micro workings - how, within or beneath the macro-structures, people transact with each other and make the system move (and I say "move" because "work" may be quite contentious). Of course, Hardball shows that, at best, government and politics are for the strong-willed and that they are, at worst, brutish and nasty.

So I answer "No" because the two books discuss two different levels - the one macro (A Brilliant Solution), the other micro (Hardball) - at which the American government and American politics operate. If we think in terms of reason or morality, we may argue for example that accepting favors (Hardball) is incompatible with the existence of electoral colleges in the country (A Brilliant Solution). If we think in terms of what actually exists, however, we can say that the system that created the electoral colleges is also the system that has made it possible for the giving and taking of favors among politicians to become an everyday reality.

The American Constitution laid down structures and principles that are too general to concretely do away with the everyday reality of hard politics which Hardball exposes. The framers of the Constitution may have good intentions when they thought of strengthening checks and balances between the branches of government. Their good intentions, however, did not and cannot possibly ward off, say, dirty propaganda tactics during elections, or the practice of keeping one's enemies at the front, or politicians' habit of understanding events in way that is most advantageous to them.

On the other hand, I say "Yes." Why?

Yes, because the intentions of the framers of the American Constitution have been so overtaken by historical events to a point that one can only say that the practice of politics described in Hardball has moved our government too far from the original intent of the framers of the Constitution as discussed in A Brilliant Solution.

Cornell West (2004), for example, describes "three dominating antidemocratic dogmas" that for him threaten American democracy: first is "free-market fundamentalism [that] posits the unregulated and unfettered market as idol and fetish" (3), second is "aggressive militarism, of which the new policy of preemptive strike against potential enemies is but an extension" (5), and third is "escalating authoritarianism" (6).

Speaking of the US and other wealthy and poweful countries, Samir Amin (2003) says that "The democracy and people's rights that the G-7 powers invoke to justify their interventions are only political means for them to manage the crisis of the contemporary world, complementing in this respect the economic means of neoliberal management. The democracy of which they speak is only incidental, their cynical talk of 'good governance' wholly subject to the strategic priorities of the USA/Triad" (115).

Noam Chomsky (2003) chronicles how the US government has supported economic, political and military inequality not only within its borders but in the entire world. The three authors speak of a reality that has overtaken - in ways that are too many to enumerate - the intent of the framers of the American Constitution.


REFERENCES:

  • Amin, Samir. Obsolescent Capitalism: Contemporary Politics and Global Disorder. Translated by Patrick Camiller. New York: Zed Books.
  • Berkin, Carol (2002) A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution. New York: Harcourt.
  • Chomsky, Noam (2003) Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance. New York: Metropolitan Books.
  • Matthews, Chris (1988) Hardball: How Politics is Played Told by One Who Knows the Game. New York: Harper Collins.
  • West, Cornel (2004) Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism. New York: The Penguin Press.

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