I’ve been reflecting recently on political developments on both sides of the Atlantic and the realisation that few politicians - or, indeed, members of the public
- have any deep attachment to due process and norms, so long as their side “wins". It’s hard to imagine (m)any Leave activists endorsing proroguing Parliament if used by Jeremy Corbyn to achieve the opposite effect. And we know that some Senators’ views on impeachment are remarkably correlated
with which party holds the presidency. Lest you think this is limited to one side, how many Remainers would have supported the Speaker’s creative interpretation of convention
if circumstances were reversed?
Why are people willing to put at risk norms that have contributed to centuries of stability? I suspect the answer is found in this pseudonymous (and frankly offensive) column
published during the 2016 US Presidential election (it turned out to be by Michael Anton
, who later joined the Trump White House), which called 2016 the “Flight 93
Election” (“charge the cockpit or you die”) and argued that a Hillary Clinton presidency was an existential threat to America.
This cataclysmic tone may seem more common on the right, but we see similar language on the left, particularly in the environmental movement. I’m not drawing moral equivalence, but the problem is, what can’t
be justified if the alternative is the end of civilisation? Technocracy
gets a bad press, but - if you care about the rule of law - it seems vastly preferable to competing apocalyptic visions.