James Fallows today suggested a parlor game you can play at home:
This is distilled from a longer item earlier today, at the suggestion of my colleagues. It's a simple game you can try at home. Pick a country and describe a sequence in which:
- First, a presidential election is decided by five people, who don't even try to explain their choice in normal legal terms.
Then the beneficiary of that decision appoints the next two members of the court, who present themselves for consideration as restrained, humble figures who care only about law rather than ideology.
Once on the bench, for life, those two actively second-guess and re-do existing law, to advance the interests of the party that appointed them.
Meanwhile their party's representatives in the Senate abuse procedural rules to an extent never previously seen to block legislation—and appointments, especially to the courts.
And, when a major piece of legislation gets through, the party's majority on the Supreme Court prepares to negate it -- even though the details of the plan were originally Republican proposals and even though the party's presidential nominee endorsed these concepts only a few years ago.
How would you describe a democracy where power was being shifted that way?
I would describe it as a creeping oligarchy, or even, given the party in question, a shuffle towards feudalism. It's nice to know I'm not at home. (And also that James Fallows is a much better writer than I am.)