Monday, May 23, 2005

Partisan hackery and the Constitution

Bruce Ackerman has an interesting commentary in the American Prospect today. In it, he lays the blame for the longevity of the nuclear option square at the feet of Dick Cheney. Assuming that Mr. Ackerman's rescitation of the Senate rules is correct (and I'm inclined to think it is), then Dick Cheney is once again proving himself to be the callowest, most short-sighted partisan hack of a Vice President that ever disgraced the halls of the White House. It would appear that Mr. Cheney's desire for executive power trumps all concerns, including those about the long-term health of deliberative governance in America.

The hackery of Cheney, however, is not much of a surprise. What's really interesting about Ackerman's article is that it highlights the historical roots of Cheney's role in this farce. I knew the Twelfth Amendment instituted our current election system, but I never really thought about the fact that it ended the system of a divided, two-party executive. What I originally understood to be a historical aberration truly has the potential to have profound consequences here in modern times. Scary, sort of, but fascinating in how it illustrates the law of uninentional constitutional consequences. Probably something the theocons should think about when they start yawping for new constitutional bans.

On a not-unrelated note, Lawrence Tribe of Harvard Law has announced (warning: low-res pdfs) that he will not write a new second volume for the 3rd edition of his classic treatise American Constitutional Law. Apparently, he believes that constitutional law is currently in such a state of ferment that it would be impossible to write a treatise with any meaningful contemplation on future paths the law might take. The resolution sucks on the pdfs, but you law types out there should find the longer letter quite interesting.