Dennis Kucinich will now help the Democratic caucus further entrench and glorify the modern, autocratic American presidency

As originally posted in the reader-diary section of; the post’s 2010 comment thread is available at that link.

The present day existence of a benevolent autocrat, or limited Monarch, in all but name, in place of the Constitutional American presidency, didn’t come about merely because of the (national media-promoted) submission and excessive deference to Presidents eager to overreach on secretive matters of foreign and military policy by the other two, now-atrophied, branches of government (meaning the Article I Legislative Branch, and the Article III Judicial Branch).

It came about, at least equally, and most recently, because of the grossly-irresponsible abandonment by Congressional committees of almost all meaningful Executive Branch oversight, and because of the ceding of the power and duty of the Legislative Branch of government, to write and prioritize major domestic legislative policy for our nation, to the head of the Executive Branch of government. A ceding of power that amounts to a voluntary, unConstitutional hand-over of the power of self-government entrusted to our representatives to one man independently elected (whose job can’t be threatened, absent impeachment, by Congress) – not to represent constituents, nor to write or pass legislation, but rather to implement the law, and to veto new legislation he disapproves of, while supervising the operations of the sprawling Executive Branch of government and our military chain of command.

"A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government; and government without a constitution is power without a right. All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It must be either delegated, or assumed. There are not other sources. all delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature and quality of either." — Thomas Paine, Rights of Man [1791-1792]

Assumed "power without a right." That, please note, is what Dennis Kucinich, within the last week, and especially today, has openly declared to be the proper order of the American government, in the person of the American president, and Kucinich will now be unthinkingly cheered on by many misguided Americans and Congressional colleagues who’d rather follow than question powerful authority figures, no matter how corrupt and dishonest those unchecked authorities may be. [In large part because, as David Swanson rightly notes in his new diary: "I think the corporate media has instilled in people the idea that presidents should make laws…"]

The following is part of what Dennis Kucinich recently said to Amy Goodman, telegraphing the basis on which he would soon publicly abandon his independent will, and his own better judgement, as a federal representative – speaking of the President’s Senate-endorsed private health insurance-underwriting bill:

"I’ve always been able to try to find a way to work things out. But, you know, it’s a two-way street. The White House has a responsibility to produce a bill that is worthy of supporting. And you can’t say it’s taking a step in the right direction if what you’re doing is taking a step towards increasing privatization of the healthcare system." – Dennis Kucinich, 3/11/2010

Less than a week later, this is what Dennis reportedly said today at his news conference (if there’s a transcript, I haven’t seen it):

The previous meeting was at the White House. I was there with a bunch of people who supported the bill. I left it with a sense of compassion for our President and what he’s going through with this. Regardless of anyone’s position, we have to be compassionate towards those called upon to make decisions for this nation. […] Basically, [the President] said this is the bill. […] I hear from my constituents a real desire for the President to succeed. I’ve been bothered by the attempts to delegitimize his Presidency. […] But we have to be very careful that the potential of the Presidency not be destroyed by this debate. And even though I have many differences on this policy, there’s something much bigger [riding] on this debate for America.Dennis Kucinich, 3/17/2010

Which seems to be very much in the same vein of his earlier comment, in viewing and deferring to the President as a burdened and put-upon benevolent autocrat charged with overseeing and ruling the nation’s people, by way of their stand-ins in Congress, who are duty-bound to merely rubberstamp the Monarch’s will once (privately or publicly) made known to them, if he’s of the same Party.

The truth that Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez should have pointed out to Rep. Kucinich: CONGRESS has the "responsibility to produce a bill that is worthy of supporting," and which actually does what it claims to do, on this and every other issue. FULL. STOP.

Dennis Kucinich is accidentally right when he concludes that "there’s something much bigger [riding] on this debate for America." Tragically for this nation, however, that "something" is self-government of, by, and for the people, and Kucinich’s decision today helps push that self-government even further away from our one and only federal Congress in Washington, D.C., in favor of "the potential of the [increasingly all-powerful, self-aggrandizing modern] Presidency," no matter the particular man (or Party) presently in power, the awesome but unexercised "potential" of our Legislative Branch of government be damned.

It was that Constitutional government-disrespecting explanation of his role as a federal legislator that lead me to respond to that Amy Goodman interview comment by Kucinich by pointing out that (from my perspective, horrifyingly) almost every Member of Congress has, now, collectively (taking turns by Party majority), really, truly, and voluntarily – and even openly and explicitly (at least in Kucinich’s very-public case) – ceded their will and their voices as our representatives in the public "People’s" branch of government, and thus our power, "without a right," to one man acting in private in another branch, without even the gesture of a fleeting backward glance at our receding representative self-government.

There’s a place for people who want nothing more than to be able to smartly salute and mindlessly obey their orders without quibble or conflict, but it sure as hell isn’t as a federal representative in our national legislature.

Dennis Kucinich, I respond to your "compassion" for the "potential" of the man, Barack Obama, and his and thus future presidencies, in whom too many of your constituents, and now you, yourself, have apparently placed blind trust and confidence, with this:

"In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."
Thomas Jefferson, Draft Kentucky Resolutions [1798]

We’ve come to the sorry and dangerous pass that is Washington, D.C. today, as a direct result of what the two Parties have done in and to Congress, with the silent complicity of every caucus member and the national media, over years and decades of preparing the ground for such concentration and merging of power between the first and second branches of government, without benefit of Constitutional amendment. Namely, first the Parties gathered and concentrated the power, divided into two groups, of 535 individual, oath-sworn legislators (now collectively entrusted with representing 300 million Americans), under the control of only a select few Party leaders. That practice – epitomized in the House by the House Rules Committee, which is now nothing but a Majority Party-rule Enforcement Committee completely beholden to the Speaker – has been slowly institutionalized and accelerated, beginning with the abuses of the House Rules Committee that started in about the mid-1970s.

James Madison and George Washington feared the advance of political parties. Of course factions would be formed, they thought; people of like interests would band together. But the coalitions would shift as issues shifted. In a system designed to leave the people in charge, their representatives would assess issues and vote according to their best judgment.

Loyalty to party undermines the very essence of representative government, which depends on entrusting members of one’s community to act in one’s stead. What author Peter Shane labeled Madison’s Nightmare has come true: We live in a world of constant partisan warfare, a never-ending battle between clubs, undermining the belief that a citizen’s vote truly counts for something.

Political theorist Bernard Crick wrote that "politics is how a free people govern themselves." Strong political parties, on the other hand, are how a free people lose that ability. Parties choose which candidates can be on the November ballot, and do so in primaries and conventions that cater to the extremes. Parties reward fealty and discourage independence.

In an earlier time, when it was hard to get information about candidates and they had to depend on party funding and volunteers, political parties made sense; today, they are remnants of a time that has passed. Mickey Edwards, 8/7/2009

Now that those few Party leaders – almost always acting to direct the business of Congress out of public view – have such an unchallenged grip on the powers and prerogatives of Congress as a whole, it’s an easy and predictable step from there, to further ceding the power of our representatives to one man in the White House (how much public access do the American people have to deliberations conducted inside the White House, never mind on Air Force One in flight?).

"When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner." – Montesquieu, "The Spirit of Laws," 1748

I’ve pointed out, at length, how the Congress allowed the President to privately usurp its role in writing the health care reform legislation, as have many others who carefully observed the public twists and turns of the anonymous-source-driven media coverage. Many have noted the absence of regular legislative order on the way to the passage-by-force of the President’s private deals with for-profit corporations, who will continue to reap immense profit at the expense of suffering Americans, as a result of those deals, if the pending Senate bill/reconciliation package passes into law. Yet though the Congress illegitimately ceded its power, it can legitimately reclaim its power to write its own, smaller bill or bills to reform our health care system, by defeating the present monstrosity and saving only what’s worth saving for a new, thoroughly-researched, openly-constructed bill in its Democratic-majority formal standing committees of jurisdiction, following public testimony from all interested "stakeholders," not just the profit-generating interests. With the immense added benefit of reviving the independence of Congress in the process, and thus beginning to reclaim democratic self-government for this nation.

But if instead Members of Congress indeed proceed to finish abandoning their deliberative public role and responsibility for this legislation, in the name of serving the President, as Rep. Kucinich has decided to do, despite the clear expression of disapproval that Massachusetts voters have already sent, Congress won’t be reclaiming its role in government again any time soon, under Democratic control during this presidency.

It is not the job of Congress to make the President look good, particularly when doing so conflicts with its own democratic process and debate, honorably representing its constituents, separated federal powers, the greater public good, and the Constitutional prerogative of Congress to decide the best legislative policy for our nation. And if it is now to be openly acknowledged or asserted, including by the President, that the only, or the primary, "job" of Democratic (or Republican, in their turn) Party members in Congress is to shield and defend and obey, not the Constitution, but the President, at all costs, including at the expense of the welfare of the American people and the limits of our Constitution, then the Democratic Party itself, and those obeying the orders of its leadership, has become a threat to Constitutional and democratic self-government in America.

"The first object of a free people is the preservation of their liberty; and liberty is only to be preserved by maintaining constitutional restraints and just divisions of political power. Nothing is more deceptive or more dangerous than the pretense of a desire to simplify government. […] If we will abolish the distinction of branches, and have but one branch; if we will abolish jury trials, and leave all to the judge; if we will then ordain that the legislator shall himself be that judge; and if we will place the executive power in the same hands, we may readily simplify government. We may easily bring it to the simplest of all possible forms, a pure despotism. But a separation of departments, so far as practicable, and the preservation of clear lines of division between them, is the fundamental idea in the creation of all our constitutions; and, doubtless, the continuance of regulated liberty depends on maintaining these boundaries."
– Senator Daniel Webster, May 7, 1834

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