by Seth Ackerman published in Jacobin
Read original on Jacobin's website
Ackerman suggests the government that much of the ...Show description
Posted 839 days ago
What is clear is that Ackerman is a very good writer; he is straightforward and persuasive, adding enough of an academic tone to sound polished yet blunt enough to come accross as passionate and sincere. My problem, though, is that he lists a number of bad things back-to-back to put us off-balance and to think that the country is going to pieces (which is kind of the goal of the article). I believe it's unfair to take bits and pieces of an enormous nation and to compile those into a single list to stoke fear or resentment.
This is not so much a critique of Ackerman than modern media more broadly: by hand-selecting events that fit our narrative, we can use those as a sort of "source" to back up our viewpoints. These events act as verified evidence that we can present to people to say, look I'm just telling you how it is. This form of communication ignores the hopes and desires of people and instead selects either the worst or best examples of often highly radicalized viewpoints. Take for example The Executioners of the LAPD: although they are ceterainly a horrifying group that must be brought to justice, their existence is meant to imply that law-enforcement around the nation follows these same principles.
That aside, he I like when he shifts away from these one-off events and to the grander scheme. He says:
America's failing state was lethal long before COVID-19. Twenty years ago, Clintonite trade policies combined with the derilect state of social infrastructure to produce one of history's most savage episodes of deindustrialization in peacetime. The explosion of mental illness, disability, chronic pain, and addiction that ensured led to a crisis of working-class mortality with no contemporary parellel worldwide.
This, I believe, begins to touch on a true feeling of America. Ackerman goes on to critique the framing of the constitution. He interprets the checks and balances of government as aristocratic inventions to curb popular rule:
Writers and militants like the English radical Richard Price and the French abolitionist Jacques Pierre Brissot saw it for what it was: a counterrevolutionary scheme that grafted the features of aristocratic rule - a bicameral legislature, an executive veto - into the democratic soil of a postrevolutionary republic.
This certainly has truth to it, but I'm somewhat wary of how much truth is there. If we look at the United States and compare it to other democracies that fell to authoritarian rule - be it through majorities of voters that initially elected those authoritarians - we might think that the checks and balances built into our constituation has made our republic - although not as democratic as other nations certainly - more risilient to very bad things. It is fair to say that this was to curb popular impulses, but there is a sense that true power should not be given to impulses but through reason and validation over time.
I'm not arguing against reform, and strong reform at that, but I am not so negative when viewing the intentions the Framers had when writing the constitution. Imagine having just came out of a brutal, revolutionary war: the last thing they wanted was turmoil and their republic to be taken down on a whim.
Where Ackerman does hit it on the head is the following:
Programs promised in election campaigns are disposed of in the courts or blocked by the Senate and party leaders bank on the electorate's inability to tell exactly who is responsible for what.