Assault on the Constitution

The Communist Overthrow of the United States

by Charles C.W. Cooke

 | May 06, 2021 11:00 PM

On Nov. 6 of last year, the country narrowly voted for a self-described centrist to be president. At the same time, it handed Congress to the Democratic Party in such an exquisitely slender fashion that it would not be clear until the beginning of Januarywhether control of the federal government was to be divided or unified. Once the “moderate” president was sworn in, he and his barely-in-the-majority party proposed restructuring the country from top to bottom, making permanent alterations to the constitutional order if need be. Finally, President Joe Biden has embraced his supporters’ and liberal pundits’ pronouncements that he can and should be “another FDR or LBJ.” 

To the historically literate, it all should be nothing less than baffling. 

First of all, Franklin Roosevelt won the 1932 presidential election by 472 electoral votes to 59, while his party won 313 seats in the House and won 58 of the 96 seats in the Senate. Four years later, Roosevelt won the presidency by 523 electoral votes to 8, while his party won 334 seats in the House and 74 seats in the Senate. Lyndon Johnson enjoyed a less protracted period of practical influence, but his numbers were still impressive. In 1964, Johnson won the presidency 486 to 52 electoral votes, and his party won 295 seats in the House and 68 seats in the Senate. Suffice it to say, control of government was clear well before Inauguration Day. 

By contrast, Biden won the presidency by 306 to 232 electoral votes, while his party won only nine more seats than the Republicans in the House of Representatives and won the same number of seats as the Republicans in the Senate. As the Washington Post pointed out in February, once the Georgia runoffs had been completed, the election ended up being so close that had 90,000 votes gone the other way, it would have been the Republicans, rather than the Democrats, who would have controlled all of Washington, D.C. From where, one has to ask, is Joe Biden interpreting a mandate for massive reform? 

There is, of course, nothing in the Constitution that relates to “mandates.” The system is the system is the system, and, providing that they stay within its hard-and-fast limits, those who run it may use their power as they see fit. But it is telling that there is almost nothing of consequence that Biden hopes to achieve that would not involve altering the structure of government itself. Unlike in 1933 or 1965, we are not witnessing a wildly popular Democratic Party using its broad political power in order to get done what it had promised to do; we are watching a relatively weak Democratic Party muse aloud about blowing up the system in order to do what it believes is necessary. Some of that would require explicitly unconstitutional behavior. Some would mean altering the system in ways that would pass legal muster but are contrary to the spirit of the rules. And some would require hijacking a medical crisis in order to advance unrelated goals swiftly. 

None of it bears any resemblance to what the country was promised last year. 

If the Democratic Party were to follow through on the calls that have recently been echoed, considered, or studied by Joe Biden, the United States would be subjected to its most dramatic structural transformation in 90 years. We would see the filibuster abolished, which would have the effect of turning the Senate into the House. We would see the Supreme Court “expanded” to 13, which would have the effect of turning it into the Senate. We would see the federal government take over all aspects of our election system, which would have the effect of turning the states into regional departments of the federal government, as well as of taking redistricting out of the hands of legislators, regulating core political speech, and turning the Federal Election Commission into a partisan tool. And we would see Washington, D.C., added as a state, in clear violation of the Constitution, for the explicit purpose of making it harder for Republicans to regain a Senate majority. Even the less obviously dramatic elements of the Democrats’ approach, such as sidestepping the Senate’s Byrd Rule (which allows the chamber to make limited changes to the budget with just 50 votes) so that the party can pass whatever it wants via “reconciliation,” would set a terrible precedent that, given the state of our politics, would be unlikely to be reversed. 

Reviewing these proposals, the BBC explained bluntly what the Democrats were doing, without feeling any particular need to sugarcoat it for a left-leaning American audience. Democrats, the BBC observed, “argue that a filibuster-free Senate could allow their party to change the political playing field — by implementing election laws that would increase their party’s vote, adding new judges to the Supreme Court and the rest of the federal judiciary, and by granting statehood (and new congressional representation) to Democrat-leaning Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.” 

One of the core reasons that we write down our political rules of engagement is that everyone in government — yes, everyone — is liable at some point to believe that his or her preferred policies are simply “too important” to be left unachieved and, unwilling to take no for an answer, to come out against the system as it stands. Just as the First Amendment protects us from the censorship of speech that is expediently deemed to be “too dangerous,” and as the Fifth Amendment protects us from the imprisonment of people who are considered “too guilty” to risk taking to trial, our constitutional structure is supposed to protect us from the “we can’t wait” mentality that pervades our politics on both sides of the aisle. 

For most of his career, Joe Biden understood this. Arguing passionately against the abolition of the filibuster in 2005, Biden praised the role it played in protecting “against the excesses of any temporary majority” and said getting rid of it would destroy “America’s sense of fair play” by “tilting the playing field on the side of those who control and own the field.” (This argument was echoed by a supermajority of Democratic senators as recently as 2017, after Republicans took control of the federal government.) Arguing against the idea of packing the Supreme Court, which he called a “bonehead” notion, Biden criticized Roosevelt by quoting Lord Acton: “I remember this old adage about power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Biden said. “Corrupted by power, in my view, [FDR] unveiled his court-packing plan.” 

And now? Now, Biden entertains every idea his party throws at him. Now, Biden is the one whom power has corrupted. Now, Biden is the one trying to tilt the playing field toward those who temporarily control it. Any student of human nature should understand why this has happened. For his entire life, Joe Biden has wanted to be president, and, having got there at an advanced stage of life, he is in no mood to be countermanded. But, that this development was entirely predictable does not mean that it is acceptable — especially when it comes on the heels of a campaign for normalcy and when the majority of the policies that are supposedly important enough to justify such norm-breaking are not especially popular in the country at large. 

Much has been written about the “Flight 93” mentality that has pervaded the conservative movement — and given that it led to the nomination and election of Donald Trump, and eventually to the events of Jan. 6, much should have been written on that topic. Less, however, has been written about the pervasiveness of precisely the same instinct within progressivism. This is a mistake, for one simply cannot understand the Democrats’ present panic without comprehending that they, too, believe that they are on the verge of extinction. 

Why are progressives worried about the current makeup of the Supreme Court, even though it is more popular and more trusted than it has been for a while? Because they rightly intuit that much of their coveted legislation is incompatible with the Constitution, and they believe that the originalist majority on the court is likely to strike down any overreach. Why do progressives want to add Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico as states? Because they think that the Senate is structurally unfair to them and to their ambitions, and that they need to stack the deck now before it is “too late.” Why do progressives want to abolish the filibuster and expand the reconciliation process beyond recognition? Because they have convinced themselves that if they do not do so, the Republican Party will “end democracy” at the state level and make it impossible for them to win again — and that, irrespective of all that, an unchecked “climate emergency” is about to end the world anyhow. 

It is perhaps not surprising that, having gained full control of the government for the first time since 2010, the Democratic Party is being urged by its radical elements to throw out a system they never liked in order to play openly for keeps. But one must ask, nevertheless: Why the hell is Joe Biden going along with it?

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