Thursday, March 04, 2010

Longing for the Weimar Republic

dk blu visit minnesota 150px Here’s the repeat of a quote from the University of Texas’ Professor Sandy Levinson from last spring. What he had to say about “Unilateral Tim” seems as apt today as it did when it was written at the end of the legislative session in 2009:

Constitutional design buffs should certainly find much of interest in today's newspapers, especially with regard to the oft-argued role of American states as "little laboratories of experimentation." One state is offering us an example of American-style "constitutional dictatorship," while another demonstrates in spades the ravages of a dysfunctional constitution [California].

First, on "constitutional dictatorship," there is, somewhat surprisingly, Minnesota, where Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a favorite of the Republican right wing (assuming there is anything else than a right wing in the GOP these days) is apparently going to use all of his powers under the Minnesota [Constitution; others] have exercised such powers, but Pawlenty's exercise in unilateral government seems to be of a different magnitude. Perhaps we should view Minnesota as having the equivalent of a Weimar Constitution Article 48, the "emergency powers clause" that allowed the president to govern by fiat. Throughout the 1920s, it was invoked more than 200 times to respond to the economic crisis. Pawlenty is sounding the same theme, as he prepares to slash spending on all sorts of public services. The fact that this will increase his attractiveness to the Republican Right, for the 2012 presidential race that has already begun, is, of course, an added benefit, since one doubts that he is banking on a political future within Minnesota itself (which didn't give him a majority at the last election; he was elected, as was Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, only because of the presence of third-party candidates). One might also look forward to whether he will refuse to certify Al Franken's election to the Senate even after the Minnesota Supreme Court, like all other Minnesota courts, says that he has won. Whoever thought that Minnesota would be the leading example of a 21st-century version of "constitutional dictatorship" among the American states? [italics are Spot’s]

Well, at least Al Franken got seated in the meantime, but it was because Norm Coleman waved the white flag, not because of Gutshot’s courageous decision to, y’know, obey the judgment of the Minnesota Supreme Court. If Norm had pressed a flimsy federal case, there is no doubt that Pawlenty would have accommodated him by not certifying Al Franken as the winner.

And let’s not forget who helped us get a second helping of Pawlenty: the Independence Party. If you like the idea of being governed by another Republican governor who treats the state like his own little Weimar Republic, well then, go ahead, vote for a third party candidate.

[graphic by Tild]

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