Thursday, October 4, 2018

#277 / Constitutional Dictatorship

Clinton Rossiter, who was an American historian, wrote The American Presidency (pictured above). I remember reading that book way back when. He also wrote another book, which I just came across in a giveaway book bin: Constitutional Dictatorship: Crisis Government in the Modern Democracies. That is a timely title, of course, so I picked up the book, which I had never heard of.

I have a generally positive recollection of The American Presidency, which I must have read over fifty years ago when I was an undergraduate student. I do not have a similar good feeling about this other book. I was genuinely disturbed and distressed by the edition of Constitutional Dictatorship that I fished out of the book bin. The original edition of the book was written in 1948, immediately after the Second World War. It seems it went out of print pretty quickly. A new edition of Rossiter's book was then reissued in 2002, right after the terrorist attacks that occurred in the United States on September 11, 2001. 

William J. "Bill" Quirk, who currently represents the 20th Assembly District in the California State Assembly, wrote an introduction for the new edition of Constitutional Dictatorship and indicates that he approves the idea that what America really needs right now, in the aftermath of the successful terrorist attacks on 9-ll, is nothing less than a dictatorship: 

How shall we be governed during the War on Terrorism? Definitely not as we have in the past. Existing governing practices comprehensively failed to protect the people and cannot be continued. Since we have been forced to face the horrors of terror attacks on the United States we likewise need to consider the sort of government such a war will force us to adopt...

Rossiter's book is premised on the idea that democratic societies, when they face crises, need to set democracy aside, so they can really get to work on the problems that confront them. Democracies are inevitably unable to deal with crisis. That's what Rossiter argues, and that is what Quirk says, too. 

May I politely and profoundly disagree?

I assume that Quirk's introduction is, by now, an embarrassment to him. I surely hope so. Do we really want President Donald J. Trump to be our constitutional dictator? I am voting "NO."

I would vote "NO" on making Barack Obama a constitutional dictator, too. 

Please, people, let's have a little bit of faith in our system of democratic self-government! We have faced a lot of crises, from wars to economic collapse. No dictatorships have been required. 

Let's not start now.


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