Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Bush's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Doctrine of Popular Sovereignty

This post is a response to a comment by Steve Lovelady over at Jay Rosen's PressThink.

Considering Steve Lovelady's comment on WingnutThink and Jay Rosen's post on Tony Snow has led me to realize that the prevailing legal theory of the unitary executive so dear to the darkside of the Bush II administration, the claim that they are representatives of the people so they are in charge and can do anything they want, but they aren't at liberaty to tell the people exactly what it is they are doing in the name of the people can be summarized quite succinctly: the unitary theory of the executive is a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" theory of popular sovereignty. The will of the people continues to rule, just as long as the people don't violate monarchical protocol so grievously as to actually ask the government what it is doing, and just so long as the government doesn't depart from its monarchical perquisites so far as to deign to inform the people of what form their will currently takes in the world.

Steve Lovelady:

As a correspondent of mine observed, "If he found a broken arrow at the site of the Little Big Horn, he'd wave it around in the air, declaring that it's proof that Custer won.
And he wouldn't care if the president's former press secretary, the president's former CIA director, the president's current Secretary of State and the president himself all acknowledged, 'No, actually, Custer lost.'

Your correspondent has really pulled a lot together here. The fact that the publicly stated opinion of the president's former press secretary, the president's former CIA director, the president's current Secretary of Stte and the president himself don't even slow this narrative down never fails to astonish me. Whatever happened to cognitive dissonance? How does a mind following this line of thought make that entire boxcar full of contradictions just go pfft!?

It reminds me of Japanese army officers in the 1930s who were constantly organizing coups and assassinations of corrupt civilian politicians in the name of reclaiming the Imperial Way from the forces of evil, in the name of the emperor, but frequently in explicit opposition to the stated position and preference of the emperor himself!

In both cases, the appeal to obedience, authority, and tradition as a source of legitimacy is belied by interpretations of the principles and causes at stake that are so radical they patently contradict the claim to obedience and traditional authority they ritually claim for themselves.

Perhaps this is one of the lesser understood inflections of the term "neo-conservative." An avowedly conservative individual who routinely violates all known precedent in the name of adherence to and revival of "tradition." Neoconservatives are more accurately described as anarchists in "traditional values" drag.

This has everything to do with the translation of democracy from explicit sufferage to the presumption of popular assent, the "don't ask, don't tell" doctrine of popular sovereignty. The "rule of law" in the liberal sense is too corrupt (i.e., insufficiently authoritarian and unilateralist) to capture the "purity" of the anarchist's vision of the cause.

I've spent quite a few years trying to figure out how people as intelligent as Okawa Shumei or Leo Strauss and his followers can seriously believe the nonsense they spout, but I've really hit a dead end. The more information I have on the subject, the more mysterious it becomes. I've almost started to think of the requirement to trust authority and force (vs. law) implicitly as an existential inclination like a lack of tolerance for spicy food--it just doesn't seem to be something that is up for negotation.

But finally, the most impressive trick of all--like Colbert's Cirque de-Soleil guy pulling himself up by his bootstraps--is the fantasy that trusting authority and force implicitly is a form of anti-authoritarian rebellion. This loses me every time.

The tyranny of the majority as rebellion--WTF? Did your correspondent have an anecdote for that one?