New Anti-Oligarchy Constitution book could launch a third party
New Anti-Oligarchy Constitution book could launch a third party
This Feb. 2022 book is 640 pages. It’s taken a few months for reviewers just to read it. Still only one review on Amazon (5 stars). Since may 2022, we are seeing more reviews and podcasts.
For me, the significance of this book is to lay out a solid foundation, for a new third party platform in US politics, an Anti-Oligarch Party.
As many readers can imagine, an Anti-Oligarch Party using this book as its text, would be little different from how Bernie and AOC have been speaking and behaving for years now.
How this book would change Bernie’s dynamic is an Anti-Oligarch Party formed and applying points from this book, would give a third party solid grounding in the Constitution. This would set it apart from other democratic-socialist efforts, grounded in Marx and the exhausted rhetoric of 1930s socialism.
With this introduction, let’s continue.
Full title: The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution: Reconstructing the Economic Foundations of American Democracy.
Authors: Professor Fishkin, Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, is also the author of the excellent book Bottlenecks: A New Theory of Equal Opportunity.
Professor Forbath, is the Lloyd M. Bentsen Chair in Law at The University of Texas at Austin School of Law and a Professor of History. He has published more articles than you can count.
From reading reviews and listening to the authors’ interviews, here’s a Reader’s Digest version. If later, I can improve it significantly, I will.
How can a Republic sustain itself against forces of top-down economic domination? How can true political interdependence and mutual aid, take hold among a permanent wage-earning class — something the drafters of the Constitution never envisioned?
The Authors aim to revive what Franklin D. Roosevelt called the “democracy-of-opportunity tradition,” an ambitious constitutional project stretching back to arguments over the nation’s founding.
According to this way of thinking, the central objective of republican reform is to ensure a broad equality of conditions; both, to permit maximum participation in public life; and, to serve as a robust safeguard against forces of corruption, tyranny and “monied aristocracy.” Only a roughly equal economic life can secure a just political order — and vice versa.
Three Goals of the “democracy-of-opportunity tradition”
Over the last 250 years, democracy-of-opportunity advocates developed a vision of how to steer the nation’s political economy towards three democratic ambitions:
1) A requirement for all three branches of government to resist oligarchy. Anti-oligarchy. All three branches of government must restrain oligarchy, the concentration of wealth and power, in politics and productive life alike;
2) All three branches of government must create, support and nurture an open, expansive middle class. As we know, middle class opportunity expanded only slowly beyond white working landholders. Expanding such opportunity is the job of all three branches of government;
3) A mandate for all three branches of government for including wider and wider categories of “democracy-of-opportunity.” All three branches must lean towards, bend towards, increasing opportunity, regardless of race, creed, color, gender, and other identity groupings. As we know this tends to happen in fits and starts over decades of time.
Going back to “political economy”
“Political economy” is the opposite of what Regressive and do-nothing, Centrist Democrats prefer, acting as if policies and laws have no impact on economic opportunity for wage earners. The current Supreme Court is conspicuously guilty of wearing these antique horse blinders. Many of its rulings can and do one-sidedly increase economic opportunity for the rich; while, severely restricting opportunity for middle and lower classes.
“Political economy” is the overlap between economic policy and political agendas. They are not separate. We are going back to this more holistic idea. We are leaving the era of economists retreated into academic ivory towers, denying all claims economic policy has political consequences. In this Second Gilded Age, it’s more obvious again; you never have one without the other.
The question can and should be, “Who’s gaining and who’s losing from the Supreme Court’s decisions?”
The Constitution impels congress to legislate and pass laws to make the Declaration of Independence work. This is the opposite of judicial exceptionalism.
“Affirmative legislative duties.” This is not at all how the present Supreme Court interprets the Constitution now. The Authors are against the current Supreme Court’s assumption they are the first, last and only interpreter of the Constitution. The Authors believe we need courts. However, they want to ratchet back a few clicks to where all three branches have affirmative legislative duty to address the three priorities of democratic opportunity.
- The New Deal was crafted to exclude black Americans, black southern workers. This was part of its undoing in the 1970s-1990s.
- In the mid-1960s, the Great Society was more focussed on civil rights, integration and fairness. It neglected the whole area of oligarchy and political economy. The white working class received no benefits. Whites perceived blacks as receiving the lion’s share of benefits. Whites “were falling behind.” This was an origin of Trumpism.
- MLKing understood the chaotic, unfair nature of politics. King reached out to join with unions and to address the needs of poor whites.
- “Georgia Populist Thomas Watson, William Jennings Bryan’s 1896 running mate, exhorted Black and white audiences to join forces in the great battle between ‘Democracy and Plutocracy:’ ‘You are kept apart so you may be separately fleeced of your earnings. You are made to hate each other because upon that hatred is rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both.’”
[The New Republic review has a very clear, useful, brief summary of FDR’s court packing ploy. Find a link to it in References]
“Originalist mythology” (their term)
The Authors wish to persuade the American people of the substantive case against the Court’s present majority vision of constitutional politics. Prescriptions for reform should flow from, and be shaped by, a substantive view of what is wrong with the present court’s constitutional politics.
The authors lay out a strong alternative to the Supreme Court’s imagined “originalist” doctrine. They call it a myth. Their book’s 640 pages are their evidence for “originalism” as vaporware.
The Authors say the Constitution and the Framers agree all three branches of government have AN OBLIGATION to enhance-expand-extend equality as this becomes timely; and, to resist and work-against oligarchy.
Current author’s comment: The problem with their analysis is, we live in a time, since the Clinton-Gingrich 1990s, when the oligarchs took over both parties. Why and how should two parties, owned and highly influenced by Oligarchs, find anything of interest in an anti-oligarch interpretation of the Constitution? End of current author’s comment.
What do we do now?
The Authors want and hope for a more confrontational approach to the current one-sided Supreme Court. Who could this agent be? The current do-nothing, Wall Street, Centrist Dems are uniquely un-prepared and unlikely to turn 180 degrees and start confronting the Supreme Court. Since the 1960s they have deified the courts. Why? Because they believe relying on courts to do the liberal Democratic thing is cheaper than investing and funding door-to-door grassroots organizing (an insight I learned from UCI historian, Jon Weiner on his podcasts). Dem neo-liberals are still living in a Warren-era defense of the Supreme Court. None of them can confront the current Supreme Court.
Who then? The authors look towards speechwriters and younger politicians who can stand up and say, “The kind of political economy this Supreme Court is creating is wrong for America. It does not follow the mainstream of Constitutional thought. They are creating a pro-Oligarchy America, an anti-middle class America. This Court is against inclusion of more benefits for more and more voters and citizens” (paraphrase).
Bernie and AOC are already voices for more fair wealth redistribution. Yet they seem clueless as to HOW to oppose right-wing courts. This book is a road map of rhetoric to say, “We should have the right kind of Constitution politics; which, looks like this…”
Include back-up plans when Congress passes a new law
The Authors say the current court is an extreme Court, a hostile Court. We’ve been here before. We need to consider political confrontation. We need checks and balances on this Supreme Court. We need to stop accepting the mythology the Supreme Court is a neutral umpire.
They give an example of a back-up plan. The courts stuck down the Medicaid For All part of Obama-care. What if the law passed had this Plan B as part of the law as passed: If Supreme Court strikes down Medicaid for all, then Medicaid is automatically Nationalized.
What is the Author’s solution to Roe being struck down? To legislate in state legislatures, until at the federal level, a progressive majority again exists among the three branches. In other words, less focus on the Right, more focus on providing ways and means for the poor to access opportunity. This is what the current do-nothing Dems are NOT doing. If you only focus on abortion as a right — guess who this favors? The rich, who have money to travel. Instead focus on expanding opportunity for middle class and wage earners.
The book and the Authors describe a wider range of options than only court packing or being angry.
A less reverential and more confrontation attitude towards the Supreme Court
Most clear presentation in podcast form I’ve found so far.
“The Constitution Was Meant to Guard Against Oligarchy” — https://newrepublic.com/article/165336/constitution-meant-guard-oligarchy-book-review
If you find other good reviews and presentations, please add them in comments.