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A Proposed Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Eric Zuesse

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The U.S. President will be elected by means of a standardized physical and personally signed mail-in ballot, which, starting in the first month of the election-year, is mailed out to all registered voters, who are broken down into 100 different and all-inclusive randomly assigned daily batches of 1% of the electorate (5% of the electorate per week), and which asks each such person “Whom do you wish were America’s President right now? (Name a living American.)” Each of the top two chosen named persons that is Constitutionally qualified and willing to serve as President — both of them naturally being publicly well-known — will then, within 30 days of having been publicly announced as having been selected by the voters for the second-round voting and willing to serve, post online that individual’s proposed Presidential policies; and each of these two contenders will, then, after yet another 30 days, together face a town hall, with 100 randomly selected Americans, at which event ten of them who would like to ask questions will randomly be selected, each one of these ten questioners to ask only one question (secretly held by that randomly selected individual), which they want to be answered by both of the contenders, and allowing each such questioner up to 5 successive follow-up questions on that one question, to ask that question of each one of the two contenders, but allowing no other question, and no time-limits. (That will, at a maximum, be 10 main questions, plus, for each question, 10 follow-up questions, or 110 questions total, as an absolute maximum, at this event, which will be the one and only Presidential-campaign town hall during the entire election-season.) After that town hall, each of the two candidates will have a half hour of free and federally financed air-time on all networks each week, so as to be able to address any issues that may have arisen. 100 days after that town hall, a second standardized physical mail-in ballot will be mailed out, this time all-at-once, to all registered voters and listing as options only those two identified individuals. All of the returned and personally signed ballots in each of the two rounds will be permanently stored for possible recounts. The candidate who receives the majority of votes will be the next President. The loser will be the Vice President. 

The twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution is hereby nullified.

The twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is hereby nullified.

Article II, Section 1, Clauses 2 & 3, of the U.S. Constitution, are hereby nullified.

THIS PROPOSED AMENDMENT WOULD ESTABLISH A MEANS OF AVOIDING THE MAIN SOURCES OF PROBLEMS THAT ARE IN THE EXISTING SYSTEM OF SELECTING A U.S. PRESIDENT, such as:

Nominees being selected entirely by means which enable billionaires and other top political donors collectively to control the outcome by eliminating candidates whom they all oppose.

Major newsmedia, which themselves are controlled by billionaires, coloring or ‘interpreting’ candidates’ assertions so as to sway voters toward their preferred candidates.

Staged ‘debates’ with only shallow questions that have been pre-approved by representatives of the billionaires, which representatives have negotiated, in advance, what questions will and what won’t be allowed to be publicly debated at these ‘debates’.

Replacing the Electoral College and eliminating the role that superdelegates play in the Presidential-selection process.

Eliminating the argument for term-limits on the Presidency (because no arbitrary requirement will be placed on whom the President should be, other than the requirements that were imposed in the 1787 Constitution itself).

Temporally spreading the initial selection-process, out to 100 weekdays, or 20 weeks, will prevent any one news-event or scandal or emergency from over-influencing the first-round choices of whom will be the two individuals competing in the second round.

By limiting the final choice to the individuals who were the two top chosen persons in the initial choice and willing to serve, that final choice will not only be between two individuals both of whom are highly regarded by a substantial portion of the population and willing to serve, but in the second (the final) round will allow each of them to present the individual’s case for him/herself and against the opponent; and this natural adversarial process will produce the polarity that is necessary to be accentuated in any meaningful election, so as to expose not only the strengths, but also the vulnerabilities, in each of the two electoral options (persons) that are being offered to the public in the final stage. 

Since this Amendment would eliminate the influence of Party-organizations (because the voters would be choosing on their own and not guided by the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee), it would introduce a new type of Presidency — one which, for the very first time in American history after the election of George Washington, would produce Presidents who are not answerable to any Party-organization but only directly-and-only to the electorate. The balance of powers between the Executive and the Legislative branches would then be much closer to what the Founders (who had wished to avoid any political Parties from forming in America) had intended to be the case, regarding the selection of the President. The Founders opposed political Parties because they knew such Parties to result inevitably in, and to encourage the development of, corruption. They wanted the President to represent only the public, no Party organization. The Founders also knew that any admixture between the Legislative and the Executive functions will greatly exacerbate corruption, by means of reducing the separation-of-powers. This proposed new U.S. Constitutional Amendment would restrain corruption because it would separate the President not only from the Party-system that controls the Legislature, but from the Legislature itself. This double-insulation would amplify the President’s “bully pulpit” (by institutionalizing adversariality, competition, between the Executive and Legislative branches) and simultaneously diminish the President’s direct influence (which, under the current system, a President exercises via his own Party-organization) over the Legislature. Politically, the President will therefore then be competing against both the House and the Senate, and will cooperate with the Legislature only so as to produce legislation that both the Executive and the Legislative branches will want to take to the electorate in their respective re-election campaigns. The objective here is to maximize the Government’s electoral accountability to the public.

The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution (setting a term-limit upon the Presidency, at no more than two four-year terms) was instituted during 1947-1951, under President Truman, in order to reduce democracy (eliminate the public from choosing the President) when an incumbent in the Presidency has proven to be so good that the public will probably always be happy for that person to continue on in that office until that person either dies or quits — such as was the case with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had died as the President in his fourth term, on 12 April 1945. Historians rank FDR as the 2nd-greatest President, after only Abraham Lincoln. Though he was popular as President, he is even more admired in retrospect by historians. In his own time, America’s wealthy were hostile toward him. The first-ever U.S. Presidential-election poll was taken by the conservative Literary Digest during the Great Depression in 1936 and only amongst middle-and-upper-class Americans, and it showed FDR likely to obtain only 43% of the vote, but in the actual election, he won 61%, and that magazine then died in 1938. Months after the Literary Digest poll in 1936, George Gallup mocked that pollster’s methodology and correctly predicted FDR’s win (though likewise under-estimating it, at 56%), thus creating the first scientific polling-organization, which still exists. The 1940 pollings showed FDR as being almost certain to win, which happened; and, then, in 1944, likewise. Republicans didn’t want that to happen ever again and thus forced through the 22nd Amendment so as to prevent it from happening. They sensed that they could never get a Republican as President who would be so popular for so long. However: that Republican 22nd Amendment is inevitably an invitation to corruption because it reduces the incentive for a sitting President to govern so that the public will be and will remain supportive of that incumbent’s continuance in office. The 22nd Amendment was thus part of the degeneration of American democracy — not part of its enhancement. If FDR had been held to the standard that the Republicans succeeded at imposing upon the country in 1951, with the 22nd Amendment, then in 1941 when the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor and America’s economic recovery from the Republicans’ Great Depression was already blossoming in full force since 1938, the Republican Wall-Street lawyer and proponent of regulated monopolies, Wendel Willkie, would probably have become President, and America’s degeneration into extreme corruption would likely have begun four years before it ultimately did. Willkie wouldn’t have kept America out of WW II, but he had zero record in public office and there was nothing in his public record which would indicate that he would have served America and the world better in WW II and afterward than FDR and even Truman did. The 22nd Amendment was just a thinly rationalized power-grab by the Republican National Committee, as soon as FDR died. But merely eliminating it wouldn’t be enough to make America’s Presidential-selection process truly and directly democratic. Parties must be removed entirely from that process. This Amendment would do that. 

The 12th Amendment to the Constitution, as well as Clauses 2 & 3 of Section Two, all deal with the Electoral College, and thus likewise would be eliminated by the proposed Amendment. Those provisions, too, had been introduced by conservatives, especially the slave states. Particularly, during the U.S. Constitutional Convention, “southern Convention delegates, who personally thrived on the institution of slavery and represented others who also did so, forced the compromise establishment of our bipartite constitutional scheme for presidential elections.” The Amendment which is proposed here would replace all of that. This Amendment would, in fact, at the Presidential level, end the institutionalized rule of America by its former slave states. The Civil War didn’t do this, but only held the Union together while outlawing outright slavery. Some of the Deep South’s stranglehold against democracy remained even after the 14th Amendment ended the overt commerce in human beings. Moreover, slavery continued in Alabama right up to WW II, when FDR, on 12 December 1941, ordered it finally to be ended.

Consequently, this would be a very important Amendment.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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The Farce of Post 9/11 U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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This week refugee camps in Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos were set ablaze rendering over 20,000 refugees homeless.  Apparently the fires were started by the refugees themselves who are sick of lives in limbo on the EU periphery.  They want to reach the heartland, get jobs, build lives for themselves.

An inevitable consequence of our modern wars, refugees have become an emblem.  Old newsreels show us their lined, worried faces in the Second World War and TV has them live from Yugosloavia, a country disappeared and reemerged as several ethnic  parts, while numerous principal actors of the time faced judges in the international courts.

Then there is 9/11 in the US — a term meaning September 11 as in the US, unlike Europe and many parts of the world, the month is written first followed by the day and year.  Patriot Day, as it has been labeled, September 11 marks the day when commercial airliners were used as weapons to destroy the World Trade Center, a skyscraper in New York City, and attack the Pentagon, the military’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

If the mastermind of the attack was a turned, non-Afghan, Mujahedin commander camped out in Afghanistan, who following Soviet withdrawal turned his attention to the other major power … committing, in his mind, the unpardonable sin of parking troops on his native soil of Saudi Arabia — no matter, they were there for protective purposes from an increasingly belligerent Saddam Hussein.

The results we know.  A naive George Bush and a populace thirsting for revenge attacked Afghanistan leading to the longest war in American history.  Many presidents later, Donald Trump too is trying to negotiate a pull-out of US troops with the Taliban.  Yes, Afghanistan holds elections and has a president, even a military, but guess what will happen if US troops leave without any resolution with the Taliban.

George Bush’s rival for governor in Texas had a great line.  ‘Poor George,’ she would say, ‘he can’t help it, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.’  So George went after Iraq and lacking his father’s good sense (who after liberating Kuwait withdrew) he stayed to democratize Iraq without examining the country’s demographics.  Majority Shia, it has a democratic leadership now that is Shia and closely allied with Shia Iran.  Fast forward to the present and the current president, Donald Trump, is withdrawing troops from Iraq and is in a stand-off with Iran. 

Anyone would be forgiven for thinking American foreign policy in the Middle East is a plot from a Gilbert and Sullivan farce.  Except for a sad and sobering fact.  More than a million lives lost, refugees still streaming out and many, many millions of lives displaced … including a Christian Iraqi from Baghdad who runs a 24-hour convenience store a couple of miles from my house.

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American Democracy and “The Barbarism of Specialisation”

Prof. Louis René Beres

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Jose Ortega y' Gasset

“The specialist ‘knows’ very well his own tiny corner of the universe; he is radically ignorant of all the rest.”-Jose Ortega y’ Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses (1930)

It has been almost one hundred years since Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’ Gasset  published The Revolt of the Masses (Le Rebelion de las Masas, 1930). A prescient indictment of anti-Reason, and an immediate forerunner of modern classical works by German scholars Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers,[1] Ortega was most plainly concerned about Europe’s growing fragmentation of learning. Witnessing a world rapidly abandoning the traditional goal of  broadly-educated or “whole” human beings, he worried about a future in which there would be more capable scientists than ever before, but where these scientists were otherwise unexceptional and without any wider embrace of erudition.

                These observations were seminal. Among other things, the prophetic philosopher foresaw “educated” societies in which even the proud holders of impressive university degrees were “conscientiously ignorant” of everything outside their own vocational bailiwicks. In essence, Ortega had anticipated the present-day United States. Here, even in an oft-vaunted “advanced society,” the most exquisitely trained physicians, lawyers, accountants and engineers generally reason at the same limiting level of analysis as technicians, carpenters or lightly schooled office workers.

               In large part, this is because “professional” education in the United States has effectively superseded everything that does not ostentatiously focus on making money. The adverb here is vital in this description, because the overriding lure of wealth in America remains the presumed admiration it can elicit from others. As we ought already to have learned from Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759): “The rich man glories in his riches, because he feels that they naturally draw upon him the attention of the world….At the thought of this, his heart seems to swell and dilate itself within him, and he is fonder of his wealth, upon this account, than for all the other advantages it procures him.”[2]

               Almost by definition, any American concerns for intellectual or historical issues per se have become extraneous. This does not mean, however, that our strenuous national efforts at improving professional education  have been successful  or productive. On the contrary, as we witness the multiple daily technical failures of American democracy – e.g. the all-too evident incapacity of our ballot calculating technologies to keep abreast of shifting vote-counting modalities – this beleaguered polity is failing on multiple fronts.

               For many reasons, many of them overlapping, this has been a lamentable retrogression. Above all, it has impaired this country’s capacity to sustain an enviable or even minimally credible democracy. Though Thomas Jefferson had already understood that proper human governance requires a purposeful acquaintance with historical and sociological learning, Americans now inhabit a country where the president can say unashamedly, “I love the poorly educated.” Significantly, this perverse preference of Donald J. Trump did not emerge ex nihilo, out of nothing.

               It is a portentous but credible echo of Third Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels: “Intellect rots the brain.”[3]

               Ortega y’Gasset had a specific name for this generally defiling intellectual deformation. More exactly, he called it “The Barbarism of ‘Specialisation.”[4] Earlier, and in somewhat similar fashion, Friedrich  Nietzsche wrote about the “educated philistine.”[5] Both Ortega and Nietzsche recognized the irony that a society could become progressively better educated in various sub-fields of human knowledge and yet, simultaneously, become less and less cultured, less and less truly civilized.[6] In this regard, the German philosopher placed appropriate conceptual blame on what he preferred to call the “herd.”[7] For his part, the kindred Spanish thinker cast his particular indictment on the “mass.”

               Whatever the terminological differences, both sets of ideas were centered on the same basic critique; that is, that individuals had been casting aside the necessary obligation to think for themselves, and had, thereby, surrendered indispensable analytic judgments to “crowds.”[8]

               Today, both ideas can shed some useful light on American democracy, a system of governance under increasing assault by US President Donald J. Trump.        To the extent that American education has become rampantly vocational – that is, oriented toward more and more “pragmatic” kinds of specialization – the wisdom of Ortega y’Gasset and others is worth probing with ever-increasing care. Moreover, the corrosively “barbarous” impact of  specialization foreseen earlier by philosophers is now magnified by the injurious effects of worldwide disease pandemic. 

               Without doubt, this unwelcome magnification will need to be countered if American democracy is able merely to survive.[9]

               But analysis should begin at the beginning. Inter alia, it is a discomfiting beginning. Americans now inhabit a society so numbingly fragmented and rancorous that even their most sincere melancholy is seemingly contrived. Wallowing in the mutually-reinforcing twilights of submission and conformance, We the people have strayed dangerously far from any meaningful standards of serious learning. In consequence, though still a nation with extraordinary scientific, medical and commercial successes, the American public is often ill-equipped to judge candidates for  high political office.[10]

               As we have seen, utterly ill-equipped.

               Surveying ever-mounting damages of the Trump presidency,[11] some of which are synergistic or “force multiplying,” could anything be more apparent?

                The grievously baneful selection of Donald J. Trump in 2016 was anything but a cultural aberration.  It was, rather, the plausible outcome of an electorate relentlessly driven and even defined by “mass.” Without any real or compelling reasons, voting Americans freely abandoned the once-residual elements of Jeffersonian good citizenship.

               Together with the unceasing connivance of assorted criminals, charlatans and fools, many of them occupants of the present US Government’s most senior positions, a lonely American mass now bears core responsibility for allowing the demise of a once- enviable democratic ethos. To expect any sudden improvements to emerge from among this homogenized mass (e.g., by continuously making the citizens more particularly aware of this president’s manifold derelictions) would be to  overestimate its inclinations.  Though truth is always exculpatory, there are times when it yields to various forms of self-delusion.

               “What the mass once learned to believe without reasons,” queries Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, “who could ever overthrow with reasons?”

               There will be a heavy price to pay for America’s still-expanding ascendancy of mass. Any society so willing to abjure its rudimentary obligations toward dignified learning – toward what American Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson had once called “high thinking” – is one that should never reasonably expect to survive.[12]

                There is more. Treating formal education as a narrowly instrumental obligation (“one should get better educated in order to get a better paying job”), Americans now more easily accept flagrantly empty witticisms as profundities (“We will build a beautiful wall;” “Barbed wire can be beautiful;” “The moon is part of Mars;”  “Testing for corona virus only increases disease;” “Just one percent of Covid19 victims have symptoms,” etc., etc), and consult genuinely challenging ideas only rarely.

               Always, the dire result of anti-Reason is more-or-less predictable; that is, a finely trained work force that manages to get a particular “job” done, but displays (simultaneously) nary a hint of  worthwhile learning, commendable human understanding or simple compassion. Concerning this last absence, empathy is not directly related to the “barbarisms of specialization,” but it does generally exhibit some tangible nurturance from literature, art and/or “culture.” Incontestably, the Trump White House is not “only” indifferent to basic human rights and public welfare,[13] it quite literally elevates personal animus to highest possible significations.

               This is especially marked where such animus is most thoroughly pedestrian.

               Intentionally mispronouncing the Democrat vice-presidential candidate’s first name is a small but glaring example of Donald Trump’s selected level of competitive political discourse. By its very nature, of course, this demeaning level is better suited to a first-grade elementary school classroom.

               There are even much wider ramifications of gratuitous rancor. When transposed to the vital arena of international relations, this president’s elevation of belligerent nationalism has a long and persistently unsuccessful history as Realpolitik or power politics.[14] Thinking himself clever, Donald Trump champions “America First” (the phrase resonates with those, like the president himself, who have no knowledge of history),but fails to realize that this peculiarly shameful resurrection of “Deutschland uber alles” can lead only to massive defeat and unparalleled despair.

               “I loathe, therefore I am,” could well become Donald J. Trump’s “revised” version  of  René Descartes “Cogito.”[15] Following Descartes, Sigmund Freud had understood that all human beings could somehow be motivated toward creating a “spontaneous sympathy of souls,” but America’s Donald Trump has quite expansively reversed this objective. Reinforced by the rampant vocationalism of this country’s education system, Trump has consistently urged citizens to turn against one another, and for no dignified, defensible or science-based reasons. In absolutely all cases, these grotesque urgings have had no meritorious or higher purpose.

               Instead, they remain utterly and viciously contrived.

               In the bitterly fractionated Trump-era United States, an authentic American individualhas become little more than a charming artifact.  Among other things, the nation’s societal “mass,”  more refractory than ever to intellect and learning, still displays no discernible intentions of ever taking itself seriously. To the contrary, an embittered American ‘mass” now marches in deferential lockstep, foolishly, without thought, toward even-greater patterns of imitation, unhappiness and starkly belligerent incivility.

               All things considered, the American future is not hard to fathom. More than likely, whatever might be decided in upcoming politics and elections, Americans will continue to be carried forth not by any commendable nobilities of principle or purpose, but by steady eruptions of personal and collective agitation, by endlessly inane presidential repetitions and by the perpetually demeaning primacy of a duly “sanctified” public ignorance.  At times, perhaps, We the people may still be able to slow down a bit and “smell the roses,”  but this is doubtful.

               Plainly, our visibly compromised and degraded country now imposes upon its increasingly exhausted people the breathless rhythms of a vast and omnivorous machine.

               This machine has no objective other than to keep struggling without spawning any sudden breakdowns or prematurely inconvenient deaths.

               Much as many might wish to deny it, the plausible end of this self-destroying machinery will be to prevent Americans from remembering who they are now and (far more importantly) who they might once still have become. At another reasonable level of concern, Americans remain threatened by nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, especially now, during the incoherent Trump-era. Significantly, although there exists a vast literature on law-based strategies of nuclear war avoidance, there is little parallel jurisprudential effort directed toward the prevention of nuclear terrorism.[16]

               In fact, presidential banalities aside, this is no longer a “nation of laws.” It is a nation of ad hoc, narrowly visceral response.

               There is more.  Americans inhabit the one society that could have been different. Once, we harbored a preciously unique potential to nurture individuals, that is, to encourage Americans to become more than a smugly inert mass,  herd or crowd. Then, Ralph Waldo Emerson (also fellow Transcendentalists Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau) described us optimistically as a people animated by industry and “self-reliance.”

               Now, however, and beyond any serious contestation, we are stymied by collective paralysis, capitulation and a starkly Kierkegaardian “fear and trembling.”

                Surely, as all must eventually acknowledge, there is more to this chanting country than Fuehrer-driven rallies, tsunamis of hyper-adrenalized commerce or gargantuan waves of abundantly cheap entertainments: “I celebrate myself, and sing myself,” rhapsodized the poet Walt Whitman, but today, the American Selfhas devolved into a delicately thin shadow of true national potential. Distressingly, this Self has already become a twisting reflection of a prior authenticity.  Now it is under seemingly final assault by a far-reaching  societal tastelessness and by a literally epidemic gluttony.

               Regarding this expressly gastronomic debility, it’s not that we Americans have become more and more hungry, but rather that we have lost any once residual appetites for real life.[17]

               In the end, credulity is America’s worst enemy. The stubborn inclination to believe that wider social and personal redemption must lie somewhere in politics remains a potentially fatal disorder. To be fair, various social and economic issues do need to be coherently addressed by America’s political representatives, but so too must the nation’s deeper problems first be solved at the level of microcosm, as a matter for individuals.

               In the end, American politics – like politics everywhere – must remain a second-order activity, a faint reflection of what is truly important. For now, it continues to thrive upon a vast personal emptiness, on an infirmity that is the always-defiling reciprocal of any genuine personal fulfillment. “Conscious of his emptiness,” warns the German philosopher Karl Jaspers in Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1952), “man (human) tries to make a faith for himself (or herself) in the political realm. In Vain.”

                Even in an authentic democracy, only a few can ever hope to redeem themselves and the wider American nation, but these self-effacing souls will generally remain silent, hidden in more-or-less “deep cover,” often even from themselves. In a democracy where education is oriented toward narrowly vocational forms of career preparation, an orientation toward “barbaric specialization,” these residual few can expect to be suffocated by the many. Unsurprisingly, such asphyxiation, in absolutely any of its conceivable particularities, would be a bad way to “die.”[18]

               Donald J. Trump did not emerge on the political scene ex nihilo, out of nothing. His incoherent and disjointed presidency is the direct result of a society that has wittingly and barbarously abandoned all serious thought. When such a society no longer asks the “big philosophical questions” – for example, “What is the “good” in government and politics”? or “How do I lead a good life as person and citizen”? or “How can I best nurture the well-being of other human beings”? – the lamentable outcome is inevitable. It is an  outcome that we are currently living through in the United States, and one that might sometime have to be “died through.”

               Going forward, what we ought to fear most of all is precisely this continuously self-defiling outcome, not a particular electoral result. To be certain, at this point, nothing could be more urgently important for the United States than to rid itself of the intersecting pathologies of Covid19 and Donald Trump, diseases that are mutually reinforcing and potentially synergistic, but even such victories would only be transient. More fundamentally, recalling philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset’s timeless warning about the “barbarism of specialisation,” this country must resurrect an earlier ethos of education in which learning benefits the whole human being, not just a work-related “corner of the universe.”

               Also vital is the obligation to acknowledge the fundamental interrelatedness of all peoples and the binding universality of international law.[19]

               To survive, both as a nation and as individuals, Americans need to become educated not merely as well-trained cogs in the vast industrial machine, but as empathetic and caring citizens. “Everyone is the other, and no one is just himself,” cautions Martin  Heidegger in Being and Time (1932), but this elementary lesson once discoverable in myriad sacred texts is not easily operationalized.  Indeed, it is in this single monumental failure of “operationalization” that human civilization has most conspicuously failed though the ages. To wit, in Trump-era American democracy, the president’s core message is not about the co-responsibility of every human being for his or her fellows, but about “winners,” “losers,” and a presumptively preeminent citizen obligation to “Make America Great.”

               In this Trumpian context, “greatness” assumes a crudely Darwinian or zero-sum condition, and not one wherein each individual favors harmonious cooperation over an endlessly belligerent competition.[20]

               How shall we finally change all this, or, recalling Plato’s wisdom in The Republic, how shall we  “learn to make the souls of the citizens better?”[21] This is not a question that we can answer with any pertinent detail before the upcoming US presidential election. But it is still a question that we ought to put before the imperiled American polity soon, and sometime before it is too late.[22]

               American democracy faces multiple hazards, including Ortega y’ Gasset’s “barbarism of specialisation.” To be rescued in time, each hazard will have to be tackled carefully, by itself and also in coordinated tandem with all other identifiable perils. Overall, the task will be daunting and overwhelming, but the alternative is simply no longer tolerable or sustainable.

               Donald Trump’s removal from office is a sine qua non for all applicable remedies, but even such an needed step would target only a catastrophic symptom of America’s national “pathology.” By itself, saving the United States from Donald Trump would surely be indispensable, but it would leave unchanged the country’s still most deeply underlying “disease.” In  the end,[23] because Americans will need to bring a less “specialized” form of learning to their citizenship responsibilities, the nation will quickly have to figure out practical ways of restoring educational “wholeness.”

               Can this sort of rational calculation be expected? Maybe not. Perhaps, like the timeless message of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, this warning has “come too soon.” If that turns out to be the case, there may simply be no “later.”


[1] See especially Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time (Sein und Zeit;1953) and Karl Jaspers’ Reason and Anti-Reason in  our Time (1952). “Is it an end that draws near,” inquires Jaspers, “or a beginning?” The answer will depend, in large part, on what Heidegger has to say about the Jungian or Freudian “mass.” In Being and Time (1953), the philosopher laments what he calls, in German, das Mann, or “The They.”  Drawing fruitfully upon earlier core insights of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Jung and Freud, Heidegger’s “The They” represents the ever-present and interchangeable herdcrowd, horde or mass. Each such conglomerate exhibits “untruth” (the term actually favored by Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard)  because it can encourage the “barbarism of specialisation” and suffocate broadly humanistic kinds of learning.

[2]Smith published Theory seventeen years before his vastly more famous and oft-cited Wealth of Nations (1776).

[3]See, on commonalities between Third Reich and Trump-era American democracy, by Louis René Beres at Jurist:  https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/05/louis-beres-america-rise-and-fall/

[4] Chapter 12 of The Revolt of the Masses (1930) is expressly titled “The Barbarism of ‘Specialisation.'”

[5]Here, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche coined an aptly specific term, one he hoped could eventually become universal. This  German word was Bildungsphilister. When expressed in its most lucid and coherent English translation, it means “educated Philistine.” Bildungsphilister is a term that could shed useful light upon Donald Trump’s ongoing support from among America’s presumptively well-educated and well-to-do.

[6] On this irony, Kierkegaard says it best in The Sickness Unto Death (1849): “Devoid of imagination, as the Philistine always is, he lives in a certain trivial province of experience, as to how things go, what is possible, what usually occurs….Philistinism thinks it is in control of possibility….it carries possibility around like a prisoner in the cage of the probable, and shows it off.”

[7]Sigmund Freud introduced his own particular version of Nietzsche’s “herd,” which was “horde.” Interestingly, Freud maintained a general antipathy to all things American. He most strenuously objected, according to Bruno Bettelheim, to this country’s “shallow optimism” and also its corollary commitment to the crudest forms of materialism. America, thought Freud, was grievously “lacking in soul.” See: Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Man’s Soul (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), especially Chapter X.

[8] In  essence, the “crowd” was Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard’s equivalent of Nietzsche’s “herd” and Ortega’s “mass.”

[9] The most ominous synergies of “barbarism” would link pandemic effects with growing risks of a nuclear war. On irrational nuclear decision-making by this author, see Louis René Beres, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: https://thebulletin.org/2016/08/what-if-you-dont-trust-the-judgment-of-the-president-whose-finger-is-over-the-nuclear-button/ See also, by Professor Beres,  https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/ (Pentagon). For authoritative early accounts by Professor Beres of nuclear war expected effects, see: Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy

[10] At a minimum, in this regard, the US public ought to be reminded of the explicit warning in Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: “Do not ever seek the higher man at the market place.” (Moreover, it would not be unfair to Nietzsche’s core meaning here to expand “higher man” to mean “higher person.”).

[11] Most egregious, in any assessment of these damages, is this president’s wilful subordination of national interest to his own presumed private interests. In this regard, one may suitably recall Sophocles’ cautionary speech of Creon in Antigone: “I hold despicable, and always have….anyone who puts his own popularity before his country.”

[12] Still the best treatments of America’s long-term disinterest in anything intellectual are Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964); and Jacques Barzun, The House of Intellect (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1959).

[13] See, by Louis René Beres: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/04/the-trump-presidency-a-breathtaking-assault-on-law-justice-and-security/

[14] The classic statement of Realpolitik or power politics in western  philosophy is the comment of Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic : “Justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger.” (See Plato, The Republic, 29, Benjamin Jowett, tr., World Publishing Company, 1946.) See also: Cicero’s oft-quoted query: “For what can be done against force without force?,” Marcus Tullus Cicero, Cicero’s Letters to his Friends, 78  (D.R. Shackleton Baily tr., Scholars Press, 1988).

[15] “I think, therefore I am,” says René Descartes, in his Discourse on Method (1637). Reciprocally, in his modern classic essay on “Existentialism,” Jean-Paul Sartre observes that “…outside the Cartesian cogito, all views are only probable.”

[16] See, by Professor Louis René Beres: https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1410&context=gjicl

[17] An apt literary reference for this condition of “lost appetite” is Franz Kafka’s story, The Hunger Artist.

[18] In more expressly concrete terms, average American life-expectancy, unenviable for several decades, has now fallen behind most of the advanced industrial world. While Trump boasts of a wall to keep out Mexicans and assorted “others,” more and more Americans are trying to cross in the other direction.

[19] Apropos of this universality, international law is generally part of the law of the United States. These legal systems are always interpenetrating. Declared Mr. Justice Gray, in delivering the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction….” (175 U.S. 677(1900)) See also: Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)). The specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is expressly codified at Art. 6 of the US Constitution, the so-called “Supremacy Clause.”

[20] Here it could be helpful to recall the words of French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man: “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself’ is false and against nature.”

[21] Long after Plato, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung thought of “soul” (in German, Seele) as the very essence of a human being. Neither Freud nor Jung ever provides a precise definition of the term, but clearly it was not intended by either in any ordinary religious sense. For both, it was a still-recognizable and critical seat of both mind and passions in this life. Interesting, too, in the present context, is that Freud explained his already-predicted decline of America by various express references to “soul.” Freud was plainly disgusted by any civilization so apparently unmoved by considerations of true “consciousness” (e.g., awareness of intellect and literature), and even thought that the crude American commitment to perpetually shallow optimism and to material accomplishment at any cost would occasion sweeping psychological misery.

[22] “Sometimes,” says Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, “the worst does happen.”

[23] “In the end,” says Goethe, “we are always creatures of our own making.”

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Americas

What does Kamala Harris bring to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign?

Mohammad Ali Zafar

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Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/ flickr

Former vice president of the Obama administration, Joe Biden has chosen Kamala Harris as his running mate. She is the first black woman ever to appear on a major party ticket. Kamala Harris, daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, has a lot to offer to Biden’s presidential campaign.

Biden was in search of a person who will take a strong stance against the Trump administration’s mishandling of coronavirus and will bring to the public’s attention how racial and economic issues intensified. The former attorney general of the state, Ms Harris’ selection reveals that she might use her skills as a former prosecutor to build a case against President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. However, her role will be multipronged —she will be outlining the policies of Joe Biden along with motivating people to vote.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden, while understanding the opportunities presented by the domestic unrest, appears to use racial card by bringing in a woman of colour, at a time when Black Lives Matter movement sparked by George Floyd’s killing is still charged up. The movement gained fresh impetus when on Sunday, a Wisconsin police officer shot Jacob Blake, a black man. He was shot multiple times in the back as he entered the driver’s side door of an SUV, officials said. Such incidents further justify Biden’s smart move of picking Kamala Harris as his running mate at a time when racial tensions are peaking.

Her appointment reflects Biden’s strong advocation for the principles of justice and equality. A time when Americans are debating over racial discrimination, selection of a white candidate would not have favoured Biden, who has been criticizing Trump for his white supremacist remarks.

George Floyd’s killing opened the debate over the future of law enforcement in America and while understanding these concerns, Biden must’ve brought in Kamala Harris who has served at the prestigious position of attorney general in California. The move will also make it easier for Democrats to convince the black community that Harris will turn out to be their voice and ensure they are treated with honour and respect.

The addition of Harris will make her the fourth woman to win a majority party ticket in US History following Geraldine Ferraro, Sarah Palin, and Hillary Clinton.

Biden had other options as well. The former US Ambassador Susan Rice, in particular, was a strong contender. But a few controversies must’ve prevented such a move. Ms Rice’s ‘misleading‘ televised remarks about the Attack on US outposts in Benghazi, Libya in 2012 had exposed her to severe criticism.

Recall the previous elections when Hillary Clinton was asked to clarify why she was indulged in exchanging unwarranted emails containing classified information. Henceforth, investigated by the FBI too. Biden appears to take no chances at all; he’s not providing Trump any space which he could use to spur dirt on him.

Harris is seen as a convincing choice as she is a moderate democrat along with a pragmatic lawmaker. Trump’s campaign will be focusing on portraying Biden as a tool of the radical left. However, after the addition of Kamala Harris, who is not an ideologue, Trump’s strategy has suffered a setback.

Kamala Harris brings charisma to the Biden’s election campaign. The energy that she holds has allowed her to earn more than 10 million individual voters. These numbers are far more than the votes won by other legislators Biden considered as running mates.

Democratic Party is eyeing 2024 and 2028 elections; for them, Biden will be 78 in November, and it is indicated that Biden might serve only single term so for this the democrats must bring in a new generation as Biden himself has signalled that he will act as a transitional figure in the party. Henceforth, the pick of Kamala Harris shows that after Biden, Harris will become the presumptive candidate for presidential elections in future.

Trump has labelled Kamala Harris “Nasty” and Madwoman’. Similar words were used during the 2016 elections against Hillary, but Trump needs to be even more cautious when remarking against the first black woman ever to appear on a majority ticket. This could prove to be a hurdle for Trump as his standing among suburban women is vital for his re-election. Any gender-based critique could complicate Trump’s campaign.

Harris’ views on foreign policy are important. Although Harris has limited experience in foreign policymaking, yet she made public her views about foreign issues after she announced her candidacy for President of the United States in the 2020 United States presidential election.

Her foreign policy views over Afghanistan lie in line with Biden’s vision as both want the US Army to be back from the country. Hence the unending war of 18 years will see a possible withdrawal of US forces if Biden is elected as president. About US alliance, Harris has been keen to maintain the ‘liberal international order’ while bolstering the US position in solving coronavirus and climate change problems. Along with promoting democratic norms, her focus is to be a human right activist at the global stage, and she has also expressed concern over the plight of Uighur Muslims in China.

US relations with Saudi Arabia have been cordial, but while understanding the Biden-Harris foreign policy vision, both have been a critic of the autocratic regime of Saudi Arabia. In the Council on Foreign Relations questionnaire, she responded to a question, “US relations with the Saudi regime need to be reevaluated,” which depict that a reorientation in Saudi-US relations is plausible if Harris takes office as vice president.

In a nutshell, Harris is keen to end the Afghan war, re-enter nuclear deal with Iran and ensure compliance, restrict North Korea from advancing nuclear weapon programme and cooperating with China over climate change.

Americans have to decide that should Trump from the Republican Party retain the office or should Biden from the Democratic Party be given his first term as the President of the United States of America. As elections near, this debate will gain further ground in American politics, as to “What does Kamala Harris bring to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign?”

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