December 27, 2010


Ackerman, Bruce, The Decline and Fall of The American Republic (The Tanner Lectures on Human Values) (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England: Belknap/Harvard U. Press, 2010) ("I predict that: (1) the evolving system of presidential nominations will lead to the election of an increasing number of charismatic outsider types who gain office by mobilizing activist support for extremist programs of the left or the right; (2) all presidents, whether extremist or mainstream, will rely on media consultants to design streams of sound bites aimed at narrowly segmented micropublics, generating a politics of unreason that will often dominate public debate; (3) they will increasingly govern through their White House staff of superloyalists, issuing executive orders that their staffers will impose on the federal bureaucracy even when they conflict with congressional mandates; (4) they will engage with an increasingly politicized military in ways that may greatly expand their effective power to put their executive orders into force throughout the nation; (5) they will legitimate their unilateral actions through an expansive use of emergency powers, and (6) assert 'mandates from the People' to evade or ignore congressional statutes when public opinion polls support decisive action; (7) they will rely on elite lawyers in the executive branch to write up learned opinions that vindicate the constitutionality of their most blatant power grabs. These opinions will rubber-stamp presidential actions months or years before the Supreme Court gets into the act--and they will generate heated debate amongst the broader legal community. With the profession divided, and the president's media machine generating a groundswell of support for his power grab, the Supreme Court may find it prudent to stage a strategic retreat, allowing the president to displace Congress and use his bureaucracy and military authority to establish a new regime of law and order." "These are the dynamics of decline and fall for the American Republic . . . . Id. at 9-10. A thoughtful and provocative lecture. It provides several dire warnings. Will we take note? Probably not.).