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Sunday, October 02, 2005

Least surprising, yet most chilling pitch I've read this week: "Spitzerism"

TNR's Noam Scheiber, in an article in this week's NYT Sunday Magazine, speculates about the possibility that New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is what the Democrats really need on a national basis. "[I]s Spitzerism useful only in the narrow context of Democratic law-enforcement officials running for higher office?" he asks. "Or is there, lurking somewhere in Spitzer's experience, an approach that Democrats around the country could mine for political success?" I guess that depends on what Spitzerism is, which Mr. Scheiber explains very clearly and, I think, accurately:

Attorneys general are, by definition, law enforcers. But Spitzer expands this template: he casts himself not just as an enforcer of the law per se, but also as an enforcer of a broader social compact between ordinary people and large institutions like government and business.

Ah. So there's a contract between ordinary folks, government, and business. It's very broad. But it's not written down. In fact, the only person who knows how broad it is, and what's in it, when and if he deigns to tell us those things, is Eliot Spitzer. Whose job, as he views it, is to use the power of the State of New York to enforce not "the law per se," but ... well, whatever he damn well pleases whatever he thinks will get him elected to his next target office whatever his keen insight perceives as being within that broader, unwritten social compact. (Or maybe its penumbras and eminations.)

You remember agreeing to that social compact, doncha? It was in the fine print on the back of one of those credit card applications you really shouldn't have sent back in. The one with the low introductory rate (gradually increasing until Eliot Spitzer owns your soul).

And I think that pretty much explains why so many Democratic senators voted against confirming Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. He's just too much of a "law per se" kind of guy for their taste, huh? Just not Spitzeristic enough. (Or is it "Spitzerific"? Would Sen. Specter say "Super-duper Spitzerific?")

At the conclusion of this article, Mr. Scheiber tells us:

If you had to distill Spitzerism into a single expression, it might very well be something like: "Making risk work for the middle class." Getting that message across may be just as important to the Democratic Party as it is to Spitzer himself.

I think they can simplify that message even further: "Spitzerism: Risk. Class war." It probably won't get him the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, but might get him the Veep spot on a John Edwards ticket.

Posted by Beldar at 02:06 AM in Law (2006 & earlier), Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Least surprising, yet most chilling pitch I've read this week: "Spitzerism" and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» Should Spitzer Go National? from TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime

Tracked on Oct 2, 2005 2:24:25 PM

» Spitzer "casts himself not just as an enforcer of the law per se, but also as an enforcer of a broader social compact" from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Mar 11, 2008 12:19:45 AM


(1) hunter made the following comment | Oct 2, 2005 9:04:33 AM | Permalink

For quite sometime I have wondered if the DNC would take a dark turn. They are fighting logical, constitutional ballot and voter reform. They depend more and more on scandal to defeat their opponents. In Florida 2000 they were clearly involved in a deliberate attempt to rewrite election law. The dark turn I have wondered about is if they will choose to in effect do away with law altogether in favor a kind of 'Dirty Harry populism', that would rationalize very non-legal means to achieve results popular with their supporters.
'Spitzerism' would seem to offer a way to achieve that, especially if Spitzer wins in NY. The cost to a civil society would be great, and the irony of course is that many of the frustrations people feel towards the 'system' is due to the activities of leftists in the first place.

(2) Geek, Esq. made the following comment | Oct 2, 2005 1:02:38 PM | Permalink

The social compact between government and citizen is an old and familiar concept.

As far as a compact between corporation and citizenry, it's not unreasonble to demand a bit of social/moral responsibility in exchange for limited liability.

Of course, that sort of thing ought to be addressed by the state legislature, but on the other hand the defendants in these cases have access to the best lawyers money can buy.

(3) TalkLeft made the following comment | Oct 2, 2005 2:10:14 PM | Permalink

No way is Sptizer ready for a national ticket. He could be in line for the Attorney General spot in a Democratic Administration though.

He's a career prosecutor. Not liberal at all on criminal justice issues.

He's connected and wealthy and a nice guy and he's done a good cleanup job in his current position.

If Governor, will he push to overturn the draconian Rockefeller laws? I doubt it.

(4) molly bloom made the following comment | Oct 3, 2005 8:27:12 AM | Permalink

Nice straw argument Beldar. The idea of a "Social Contract" is at least as old as Rousseau. Starting with the basics, in a democracy, in theory at least, the people elect their government. That government created the idea of the corporation (as well as other business entities) as a fictitious person endowed by their creator with certain rights and responsibilites. As such they are corporate citizens. As citizens they are part of society and thus the social contract (gulp) and we are back to the idea of rights and responsibilities.

Is Elliott Spitzer the only one who knows what's in the social contract? No. Are the terms of the social contract unknown? No. Rousseau: "'The problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before.' This is the fundamental problem of which the Social Contract provides the solution." Rousseau,is of course, talking about self rule, democracy. A fundamental American concept is that no man is above the law (see US v. Nixon, among others).

Would Elliott Spitzer be required to follow the law, if elected President? I'd like to think so, but then again now that Bush has decided that he has the power to lock people up without trial indefinitely; that torture isn't torture when authorized by the CINC, if it doesn't leave lasting physical marks; that sunshine laws don't apply to his administration and even if they do, just issue executive orders commanding the executive branch to stonewall as long as possible and on and on and on, I am not so sure. In a functioning democracy the legislative branch would be a check on the executive. But today, the legislative branch has abdicated that responsibility... and I see I have strayed from my question on a rant. Sorry.

To begin again: Would Elliott Spitzer be required to follow the law, if elected President? Well character counts and I know of nothing in Spitzer's background to suggest he is an anti-democratic elitist scofflaw. No known violations of the social contract and motor safety laws by driving under the influence; no known incident of draft avoidence by obtaining a NG slot through political infulence; no known incidents of insider trading and then relying on the kindness of his fathers friends to exxonerate him -no check that, it was specifically not an exxoneration- to fail to find evidence sufficent to prosecute; no known use of the eminent domain laws to enrich himself and his friends by using public process to obtain lands for private development.

While I neither endorse nor condmen the idea of Spitzer for President, at this point, as far as I can see nothing in Spitzer's background suggests he would act outside the law. Character, as they say, counts. By their actions, ye shall know them.

(5) Bostonian made the following comment | Oct 3, 2005 8:48:40 AM | Permalink

Molly, you busily defeat a straw man yourself.

I'm pretty sure Beldar has heard of Rousseau.

The argument is that such philosophical theorizings are subjective, not law-like, hence unpredictable and destablizing to the rule of law. Don't tell me you've never heard this.

(6) hunter made the following comment | Oct 3, 2005 10:08:10 AM | Permalink

Molly, what fantasy - or delusion?- drives you to claim that Bush has decided he can lock up people outside the law? And please cite anything factual that shows this President OK'ing torture?
Neither are true.
while you make good points that imply Apitzer would be similarly constrained by law, you seem to have missed the point completely.

(7) molly bloom made the following comment | Oct 3, 2005 10:09:19 AM | Permalink

Who me? If that's the argument, Bostian, then perhpaps it should held in abeyance until someone suggests Spitzer as nominee for the SCOTUS, where, if those abstract theorizings you fear can be fairly attributed to Spitzer and not the author of the Times article, might be of some relevance. As a presidential nominee, the argument is nonsense.

(8) molly bloom made the following comment | Oct 3, 2005 11:19:23 AM | Permalink

Hamdi and the torture memos.

I'll leave you to search the archives of Professor Froomkin's

blog for a more detailed discussion.

(9) leelu made the following comment | Oct 3, 2005 3:18:31 PM | Permalink

...silly me. I thought that the only 'social compact' worth discussing was in fact written down, and available for anyone to see and read.

It's called "the Constitution."

(10) fiskhus jim made the following comment | Sep 25, 2006 11:42:44 AM | Permalink

If there is no "social compact", then why are corporations allowed, permitted and even encouraged to exploit the American people, to steal from and defraud the American People?

I say there is such a compact but that it has only ever been enforced as a contract of adhesion, only ever interpreted by the criminals who wrote it.

Spitzer may not be on the side of the people, but at least it does not appear that he is on the side of the criminals, corporatists and exploiters.

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