Sunday, January 3, 2021

Hi, It's Stupid: Weekend Sedition

Hi, it's Stupid to say you should stop calling it "sedition".

Because what other word would you use to describe what does appear to be an attempt, on the part of a lot of Republicans, to subvert the Constitutional order, overturn our two-and-a-third-century tradition of building electoral democracy, and install some kind of emergency dictatorship, half-assed and certain to fail, but ominous in the lesson it seems to be drawing for that very big minority of discontented white people who are unhappy about the way the presidential vote turned out in November, the ones who "feel disenfranchised", that they don't have to put up with electoral democracy—that they can demand minority rule if they feel like it and, if they get enough shady lawyers and thugbois on the case, maybe one day succeed? How is that not sedition?

Dr. Google's first suggestion, credited to Oxford Language.

Well, in the first place because it's not, in those simple terms. It's not "against the authority of a state or monarch". It's on behalf of it, in favor of the desires of the pseudo-monarch who is in power and his party, currently in control of half the legislature, against a regime or administration that doesn't exist yet, to stop it from being born, and only secondarily against the constitutional authority that guarantees this regular succession.

More broadly, it's a conservative term, properly used by a current regime to denounce perceived threats against its legitimate majesty. It enters the discourse of American politics (a quick search suggests) in Hamilton's contributions to The Federalist, rather than Madison's, to justify the demand for a "firm union" against "the tempestuous waves of sedition and party rage" (Federalist no. 9), as in the ancient Achaean League, where
there was infinitely more of moderation and justice in the administration of its government, and less of violence and sedition in the people, than were to be found in any of the cities exercising SINGLY all the prerogatives of sovereignty. (Federalist no, 18)
and in a bigger way in 1798 and the Alien and Sedition Acts, the first time the federal government tried to violate the Constitution in defense of its continued power, against immigrants as a possible source of foreign subversion (the revolutionary ideas of France, which just happened to be favored by Jefferson's opposition party), and in the Sedition Act against "making false statements" critical of the government—the creation of the concepts of fake news and illegal aliens. (Which, I'm happy to report, failed to prevent the pro-French Democratic-Republicans from winning the 1800 elections, even though the Federalists deployed even worse fake news than the ci-devant Republicans did.)

You see what I'm saying? The word "sedition" belongs properly in the vocabularies of Donald Trump and Kelly Loeffler and their crazed campaign to terrorize the population with the picture of the incoming Biden administration as a stalking horse for the "Chinese Communist Party" plot to take away our freedoms. 
This horror from I don't know where (a logo in the lower right says that it's "Made in America", which makes me wonder if it's connected to the American Made Media LLC founded by Jared Kushner as a vehicle for abstracting $617 million from the Trump campaign into secret funds) says it pretty clearly: there's a seditious association between the Democrats and the CPC (as it's more properly known, not "CCP") that is determined to take over the government, over the next three weeks, and the only way of preventing it is going to be some vaguely imagined popular mobilization.  

Which is somewhat true, in a sense, if you leave out the Chinese bogeyman: the cleverest thing in our constitution is the provision it makes for a regularly scheduled peaceful revolution if people want one (in UK the sovereign still dominated the process of naming a First Lord of the Treasury to serve as head of government or "prime minister", with the help of outrageously corrupt and unrepresentative elections) and would continue to do so well into the 19th century), and people mostly did want one this year, and so the government will indeed be overthrown on schedule on 20 January. Though it's scary to think of the mayhem that might occur with a bunch of armed thugs trying to hold the capital against this constitutionally protected "sedition", they will fail.

The best term for what Trump and his minions are trying to do (to the extent they're seriously trying to do it at all, which I think remains unclear—he himself would be happy to win, certainly, and remain president and immune from prosecution and so on, but his real efforts still seem to me to be focused mainly on cashing in on the followers' discontent) is the self-coup, in Spanish autogolpe, as invented by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, president of the Second French Republic, in 1851, when he abrogated the constitution and set out on the road to making himself his uncle's successor, emperor for real; or Ferdinand Marcos and his lady in the Philippines in 1972, or Park Chung Hee in South Korea about a month after that, or Alberto Fujimori in Peru in 1992; a reconcentration of power against those who would like a share, and a profoundly conservative concept (like a thing Andrew Sullivan cheerfully referred to as something worth defending in a recent op-ed piece, "John Calhoun's antimajoritarianism").

And counterrevolutionary, in the sense that our Constitution guarantees us a right and almost obligation to revolt in the strictly legally restrained manner that it specifies, and Trump hopes to abrogate that right. He's not suddenly trying to break the Constitution now, either, he and Miller and the others have been breaking it systematically since January 2017 and the engineering of a GSA opinion allowing him to receive foreign and domestic emoluments through his hotels and set about trying to take dictatorial control over the judiciary (with considerable success) and military (fortunately failing) and reject congressionally mandated policy on Russia and Saudi Arabia and North Korea, and on the protection of the environment, humane treatment of immigrants and Muslims, etc., etc., even as he continued to develop new ways of profiting personally from the office.

And self-crowned emperor, like the original Napoleon. Not that he'll succeed, but this mischief is breeding 70 million citizens who don't accept that constitutional design and are looking without dismay at the idea of a return to monarchy. That's the worst thing to me. I like to think they're mostly older, and too prosperous to risk the consequences of fomenting real civil disorder or war, but it doesn't frighten me.

But we, meanwhile, really are the mild-mannered seditionists for whom Madison planned, and we should take pride in it—not just restorationists, but ready to do something new and, as Biden puts it, build back better. 

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