“James Madison Anticipates the Possibility of Government Shutdown–and Predicts that the House of Representatives Can and Should Prevail”
– Which is one reason why writers in Slate, Salon, the WaPo, the NYT, and elsewhere, have started pushing the meme that the “shutdown” is the “Constitution’s fault.” In fact, one writer blamed James Madison particularly, citing as a flaw what he here notes in Federalist 58:
The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of government. They, in a word, hold the purse that powerful instrument by which we behold, in the history of the British Constitution, an infant and humble representation of the people gradually enlarging the sphere of its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the government. This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.
But will not the House of Representatives be as much interested as the Senate in maintaining the government in its proper functions, and will they not therefore be unwilling to stake its existence or its reputation on the pliancy of the Senate? Or, if such a trial of firmness between the two branches were hazarded, would not the one be as likely first to yield as the other? These questions will create no difficulty with those who reflect that in all cases the smaller the number, and the more permanent and conspicuous the station, of men in power, the stronger must be the interest which they will individually feel in whatever concerns the government. Those who represent the dignity of their country in the eyes of other nations, will be particularly sensible to every prospect of public danger, or of dishonorable stagnation in public affairs. To those causes we are to ascribe the continual triumph of the British House of Commons over the other branches of the government, whenever the engine of a money bill has been employed. An absolute inflexibility on the side of the latter, although it could not have failed to involve every department of the state in the general confusion, has neither been apprehended nor experienced. The utmost degree of firmness that can be displayed by the federal Senate or President, will not be more than equal to a resistance in which they will be supported by constitutional and patriotic principles.
The People’s House is controlled, after direct elections, by the Republicans. And the House, as Madison notes, is 100% responsible for the purse.
68% of the American people believe that the federal government should not force them to buy health insurance or face a fine — and that doesn’t even take into account the further proviso that the government that would compel you to buy the plan is the same one writing it, taking away almost all choice. Therefore, it is the obligation of the House to do what it is doing — not to capitulate and pretend they have a long game that can fit on Karl Rove’s ridiculous white board.
The Democrats — progressives, Marxists, New Leftists, these are who make up today’s Democratic leadership and their Congressional rank and file (funny how they run as “centrists” and “fiscal conservatives” only to vote lockstep with the progressives) — have taken off the mask: they openly condemn and criticize the Constitution, in much the way Woodrow Wilson did, because it separates the powers and throws up constant roadblocks to “fundamental transformation.” It blocks their agenda, which in fact cannot work in consonance with the Constitution as constructed and intended.
The Constitution, truth be told, was written to ward of the kind of ideology favored by progressives, because the Founders and Framers knew that from centralized, authoritarian, top-down government, flows tyranny and torment.
Today it is the blocking of memorials or armed Park Rangers ushering tourists into shacks and treating them like prisoners. It is the intentional removal of couples from their homes, or the closing of restaurants, hotels, or historical farms to inflict pain and economic damage on citizens of this country. It is the closing off of the oceans, as if the Federal government, with its enumerated powers, was ever granted the power to treat us like subjects and molest us in ways large and small.
Frankly, I’m happy that the mask has dropped so dramatically. Because sooner or later, those who don’t wish to live under the boot heel of benevolent nannystatism (benevolent, that is, until the people start getting uppity, at which point Daddy Obama, or the next would-be despot, in a fit of pique decides pulls out the switch and beat some obedience into the recalcitrant children he has deigned to oversee) will either give in and do so; or else they will find other accommodations.
Which, though that may sound frighteningly “redneckish” to lofty intellects like Professor Brian Kiteley, is nevertheless where we are headed.
Sometimes, being able to see so far in advance is a gift. And a curse. But mostly, it’s just an assurance the others will fucking hate you for seeing what they either won’t or can’t.
(via Volokh; h/t John In Firestone and RI Red)