Politico’s Experiments in Sophistry

Continually walking a tightrope between analysis and commentary, while continually deflecting error towards conservative positions, Politico crossed a line Monday with its headline on the most recent WikiLeaks dump: “WikiLeaks target: American power.” For this, the “news” publication deserves to join O’Reilly in the pantheon of hyperbolic overreaction.

Neither the record, nor Politico‘s own story, disclose any reason to attribute WikiLeaks’… well… “leaks” to a desire to wound American hegemony. It’s crystal clear that WikiLeaks has a different, unique, and perhaps dangerous take on what does or should constitute a “secret” in the modern state. But policy disagreements cannot always be essentialized to a battle between America, and its alleged detractors. Debates about secrecy are ongoing, the consequence of democracy’s perseverance into the electronic age. Off-hand dismissal of important questions is a sad hallmark of modern political discourse; but it’s also the essence of sophistry.

In fact, this style of debate typifies one of the most grievous sins of the last few years of political discourse, one directly traceable to the tea party movement’s sudden discovery of constitutionalism: the assumption that every policy debate must take on constitutional dimensions. It’s entirely possible that the health care bill is bad policy, while still being constitutional; but this is a debate of which the people have been deprived. We must learn to clash on narrow ground; or we’ll get nowhere. Politico continues to set us back.

Advertisements

16 comments

  1. “… the assumption that every policy debate must take on constitutional dimensions.”

    You attribute this to the Tea Party movement but wouldn’t it be more accurate to pin root cause on the liberal attitude of ‘don’t legislate when you can litigate’ during the Bush years?

  2. What litigation are you thinking of, as exemplary of this “liberal attitude”?

  3. Gay mariage comes to mind first.

  4. Or perhaps Citizens United v. FEC?

    Oh, wait. There was something different about that one…

    1. I’m pretty sure Democratic fundraisers were happy about CU.

      http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1110/45542.html

    2. I wouldn’t know about that, but Citizens United is a conservative organization.

      My point is that rather that bring something that liberals do, litigating is done by both sides of the spectrum to gain or defend rights that the political majority would not otherwise support. Which is exactly what the courts are there for.

      There’s the recent MacDonald v. Chicago as well. Or the various states’ challenges to the health care reform. That’s quintessentially “litigating rather that legislating”‘.

      1. “My point is that rather that bring something that liberals do, litigating is done by both sides of the spectrum to gain or defend rights that the political majority would not otherwise support.”

        I’ll be happy to concede that point. Does that mean that you agree with me that Ames’ point is incorrect when he suggests that finding Constitutional problems with laws is a new TP-created phenomenon?

      2. That’s been done since the First Congress – the National Bank debates come to mind – but I don’t think that was Ames’ point either: “…the assumption that every policy debate must take on constitutional dimensions.” It is true that the TP shout a whole lot about the Constitution, often when a discussion about the actual merits of a given proposal would be more productive, and just as often not at a particularly informed level.

        I don’t quite see what any of this has to do with WikiLeaks, though. O’Reilly being crazy is nothing new, but I thought the Politico article was OK, and they do have a point in that there seems very little in the cables that have been released so far that would justify the leak.

        1. Isn’t any legal challenge of a law essentially a Constitutional challenge?

          1. STL Lawyer · ·

            No. Vagueness, overbreadth, and conflict with other laws are common legal challenges that are not necessarily constitutional challenges.

  5. Raising constitutional issues with EVERY law, and in bad faith, is the tea party hallmark. There was no significant gay marriage litigation during the Bush years, by the way: I thought what you were thinking of was the detainee litigation undertaken by a significant element of the ABA. This wouldn’t support your argument either, because the Bush detention scheme was blatantly unconstitutional, to the point of shocking the conscience.

    More generally, civil rights litigation is sui generis, and doesn’t fit in with this theory at all. Social progress is procured by litigation in America more often than not. That’s the nature of majoritarian democracy, and the value of a countermajoritarian tool like judicial review.

    Objecting to government spending and legislation as ultra vires is something entirely different. Especially when it follows so closely on the heels of legislative defeat.

  6. How can a (lower case) tea party organization have a halmark? Wouldn’t the very existence of a ‘halmark’ seem to justify the formal Tea Party designation (not to mention putting over a dozen federal-level legislators in office)? It seems excessively passive-aggressive at this point Ames, even for you.

    1. Did I miss an argument from a different thread? When did capitalizing “t/Tea p/Party” become a thing?

%d bloggers like this: