Archive for the ‘THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW’ Tag


John Chuckman



“Is the U.S. in a constitutional crisis? Depends who you ask

“The current standoff is a stress test for American democracy, scholars say, unlike anything in history”


We have something similar in Britain, a country without a written Constitution, its “constitution” said to be the body of traditional practices and laws and court decisions.

There is a battle between Boris Johnson and Parliament over the required steps and procedures for BREXIT. He has even been accused of lying to the Queen in order to get Parliament adjourned temporarily.

Johnson resembles Trump in many personal characteristics and is perfectly ready to ignore traditions and rules and to skirt laws. I’ve called him Trump with an Eton accent.

Both situations, Britain and the US, mainly result from the fact of extremely driven, rude and narcissistic men having taken office. Men convinced they are right and ready to defy anyone saying they are not. Johnson, of course, hasn’t even been elected by anyone beyond his own Conservative Party’s convention, a rather odd aspect of Britain’s “democratic” political system that a man in that position can drive the nation hard on a very contentious and consequential issue.

What I think we see is the weakness of organized institutions in the face of such men. Institutions like legislative bodies or a founding document like the American Constitution. Look at Trump’s international record. He’s torn up important working international treaties, ignored the UN and ICC, arbitrarily hits nations with sanctions – which are, strictly speaking, American laws for Americans, having no legitimate application to other nations – and tariffs. He’s created chaos in half a dozen places.

Trump is the very kind of man that written constitutions are expected to be able to limit or stop, but I think the expectation is wrong. He will only be controlled by the country’s civil law in avoiding the clearest criminal acts such as killing and extortion.

As far as his personal history goes, he has always skirted rules and laws in his business and private life, but that’s part of what makes him so attractive to his base supporters. America is, and always has been, a nation with a great many scofflaws. Some of the wealthy signers of the Declaration of Independence were little more than smugglers, some were in the business of stealing native lands, and many were slaveholders, which was at the time not against the law strictly but was nevertheless regarded by the world’s thinkers and writers as against the spirit of the law.

Of course, in the sense most people think about elections, Trump, just like Boris Johnson, wasn’t even elected. He is one of a number of minority American Presidents owing to the Constitution’s Electoral College provision.

In a sense, I think Trump is going to demonstrate how inadequate the American Constitution really is, and we know already that it has many inadequacies and weak points, including the Electoral College. Then there’s the immense difficulty of changing the Constitution even slightly. There are many long-simmering arguments about the Constitution and taxes and conscription and gun ownership and going to war.

And, of course, slavery as an institution was, in an indirect fashion, written right into the American Constitution, a fact which I think should give anyone pause who regards that document and its authors as extraordinary. The very fact that slavery was included in a covert fashion is perhaps evidence that the Founders recognized already that it was a shameful institution.

My statement about the Electoral College, of course, is based on the assumption that all elections should be decided by democratic majorities, something which most people today take for granted as a basic principle. But that was not the view of America’s Founding Fathers, many of whom regarded the word “democracy” much the way “communism” was regarded in 20th century America. That’s why the hybrid thing they created is called The Republic, and loyal Trump supporters are the very people who want it to stay that way.

Americans have long fooled themselves about the Constitution being so perfect, but it’s not, not at all. And I think in the end, no document or tradition or institution can effectively control the kind of man with a true tyrant’s temperament and impulses, once he has managed to creep through the cracks into a position of power. Hitler destroyed the in-many-ways admirable Weimar Republic. Stalin ignored the Soviet Constitution, many of whose provisions were quite advanced and generous-sounding.


Response to a comment saying, “One day the only thing people will remember about Trump was he was a most repulsive man”

True for many, but his loyalists will always say otherwise. I’m afraid that kind of division of opinion is just part of the human condition.

Remember, there were Russians, millions of them, who genuinely shed tears when Stalin’s death was announced.


Response to a comment:

The United States never has been a democracy, although ordinary people and popular media do use the term. For the most part, at an official level, it doesn’t even claim to be one.

It’s always been formally called a republic, a rather nebulous term covering a huge variety of past societies, none of them very democratic and some not at all, like ancient Rome.

America’s Founders, many of them, did not trust the idea of democracy, fearing it had the potential through majority voting to siphon off the wealth of the kind of men who wrote the Constitution.

The contemporary global-empire version of America has only become worse in that regard.

Money totally dominates both national elections and the workings of foreign policy.

The wealthy give the money for the elections – the United States spending literally billions every national election – and they get a return on investment through policies and government activities. Their huge sums of campaign money also effectively form a barrier to entry against candidates not coming from the two official parties. If you don’t have a very fat wallet, you haven’t a chance of being elected.

I’ve explained how it all works here:


Posted October 12, 2019 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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