The contract of any next regime
"Our own revolution must be both gentler, and more complete."
Back in 1994, the lovely and talented Newton Leroy “Newt” Gingrich, a sort of C-tier American Metternich from the Hardee’s belt, invented the “Contract with America.”
Except for winning an election or two, the Contract was a complete failure. It was not even a thing. Its content was the kind of vague, petty powerpoint of half-meaningful, mostly-irrelevant bullet points that passes for a “platform” in a post-democratic age.
Yet it represents the high point of cohesive energy in counter-regime American politics in the last 30 years—so why not imagine it done right?
What covenant of consent could define the mission of the next American regime? Given sovereign power to achieve some purpose—what would that purpose be?
The turn and the operation
Any potential next regime has to ask Americans to restore their popular sovereignty—yet not to exercise that sovereignty by ruling themselves. For they simply do not have the virtue, or even the energy, to rule themselves—yet still deserve to be well-ruled.
Their one path to being well-ruled is to replace one autocracy with another. They need to shrug off their current autocratic oligarchy (“liberal democracy”), and replace it with an autocratic monarchy (“dictatorship”), in a transition of power as total as the fall of East Germany—the complete and final end of both an institutional infrastructure and an ideology.
No institution, public or private, can be immune to what the Germans of ‘89 called “Die Wende”—the Turn. Every sacred thing must be pulled down and smashed. Yet every hair on every human head is sacred. The Czechs called their regime change the “Velvet Revolution”—our own revolution must be both gentler, and more complete. No regime change can ever go too far in either direction. There are some tradeoffs between thoroughness and peacefulness—yet not nearly so many as most imagine.
Naturally the existing oligarchy has invested literally centuries in teaching Americans that this obvious cure (“dictatorship!”) is the worst political disaster that could ever happen to us. This is a normal obstacle for any regime change to have to overcome.
But the cure is still not an easy cure. It is surgery, not butchery. And surgery done wrong is butchery. The cure is not a cure unless every cut is right—otherwise, surgery is just torture. America is not in a condition to be tortured; nor does she need it.
Worst of all, perhaps, any failed or incomplete surgery makes the next operation much harder. Surgery is boolean: it fails or it works. Don’t fail! Surgery is momentary: it is an event, not a process. Don’t try to make it a process!
And before we can even consider surgery, we need to know the goal of the procedure. If Americans use the sovereignty of the people to demand an absolute regime change, they can only expect equally absolute results.
In any political transition that can be considered an absolute regime change, from the fall of East Germany to the return of the Taliban to the Norman Conquest, everyone’s life changes. For everyone in the country, time divides itself into an after and a before.
What kinds of changes in the American polity would justify this kind of language? Only absolute changes. Here are some absolute ideals—offered as an eightfold way.