Intrepid boy reporter Dylan Matthews at General Electric (also Comcast) Vox got hilariously spanked in public recently when he proposed that the U.S. Senate be abolished because it was "anti-democratic." Matthews somehow forgot (or never learned) that we have a federal system so such an abolition would be impossible under our system of government. Therefore, young Dylan found another outlet for his pubescent enthusiasms. Why, if we can't abolish the Senate under the current system then BINGO! Ditch the despised constitution and replace it with a parliamentary system.
To get a proper fix on Dylan's latest crusade, let us take a trip down memory lane to early January when young Dylan had the U.S. Senate in his sights:
The problem is that the deck is stacked in favor of small states, which receive equal representation in the Senate despite dramatic variance in population. The Senate is a profoundly anti-democratic body and should be abolished.
The boy wonder now has it all figured out after being informed about something called the Constitution.. Just blithely toss the Constitution overboard and replace it with a system that gives more power to the Big Chief. Let us stand back in wonder as Dylan rubs his magical crystal ball and prognosticates on This is how the American system of government will die:
The United States' system of government is a nightmare. The Constitution requires levels of consensus between branches of government that are not realistic in a modern country with ideologically polarized parties. The result is near-total policy stasis and gridlock that in some cases, like the debt ceiling crisis of 2011, risks stopping measures from taking effect that are necessary to prevent total calamity. As the saying goes, things that can't last forever don't, and it's reasonable to predict, as Matthew Yglesias does, that America's untenable system of government will fall apart, probably in our lifetimes.
Anybody else notice how eager Vox writers seem to be for our constitutional government to disappear? Okay, back to young Dylan swooning over the possiblity of a BRAND NEW type of government.
But Yglesias is vague as to how that will happen. While he's careful to say that past democratic collapses — such as the Honduran constitutional crisis of 2009 — aren't necessarily models for what will happen here, he does seem to presume some kind of crisis. At some point, an impasse between the executive and legislature will create a state of exception, a point at which disaster cannot be averted through normal legal channels.
But it's hard for me to imagine a crisis whose resolution would involve an all-out coup or dissolution of democratic institutions. What's much likelier is a continuation of the executive's gradual consolidation of power until the presidency is something like an elective dictatorship. It won't happen in a big bang, and no individual step in the process will feel like a massive leap into tyranny. But compared to today, the president's powers will be almost unrecognizable.
You mean someday in the distant future some evil rightwing president could (gasp) consolidate power by picking up a pen and a phone and going around Congress by issuing executive orders?
After playing around with a bunch of incoherent ideas in his Vox sandbox, Dylan finally squeals out in pleasure his vision of how we can finally ditch the Constitution and go to Big Chief rule:
The best-case scenario is that we wind up with an elective dictator but retain peaceful transitions of power. This is where I'd place my bet. Pure parliamentary systems, especially unicameral ones, give high levels of power to the prime minister and his cabinet, and manage to have peaceful transitions nonetheless...
...I don't think a full-on evolution into dictatorship is an especially likely outcome. But the fact that the concentration of executive power makes it possible gives me pause — and should make us all consider peacefully replacing our current system with one less likely to fail us.
"I don't think..." The truest words in the entire piece. Oh, in case you think dissatisfaction with the Constitution at Vox is limited to young Matthews and Yglesias, guess what? Publisher Ezra Klein is also unhappy with it as well.